What does it take to lead rebuilding efforts in a state after a storm wreaks havoc?

Matt Palmisano, ’14, got a glimpse this summer as an intern with the New Jersey governor’s office. The state is still rebuilding nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy ripped across the Eastern Seaboard.

A leadership studies and philosophy, politics, economics, and law (PPEL) double major, he worked with the governor’s advance team, which oversees events and press conferences, writes briefings, and acts as a liaison between the governor and the public, among other tasks.  

“Many of the governor’s events that I helped work on were directly related to Hurricane Sandy and the relief and rebuilding efforts,” says Palmisano. “It was amazing to see the governor work with constituents and advisors to make progress on rebuilding the state and making it stronger than ever.”

His pride is evident. The image that came to symbolize the storm—the mangled Jet Star roller coaster floating in the Atlantic—was taken where he spent every summer growing up. A native of the state, he spent summers on the sandy beaches of the Jersey Shore and the rest of the year in West Caldwell.

He watched from Richmond with concern when the storm struck.

It caused more than 300,000 homes to be damaged or destroyed and has required billions to clean up, according to the governor’s office. Businesses were destroyed and some people lost their lives.

“Having been directly impacted by Sandy, it was particularly satisfying to help out,” says Palmisano.

It doesn’t hurt that helping out also came with a few perks.

“My first day in the State House was the same day that Prince Harry was visiting New Jersey and Gov. Chris Christie,” he says. Palmisano did events with and was able to meet celebrities such as Bon Jovi and the Cake Boss, government officials, and others to help rebuilding efforts.  

A Richmond alumnus put him in touch with the governor’s office. A Robert L. Burrus Jr. Fellowship, a UR Summer Fellowship, made the experience possible.

The internship gave him a valuable opportunity to reflect on what he has learned so far. “It was amazing to see the leadership styles and the team-style approach that the advance team utilizes to be successful,” he says.

The senior knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in politics. The internship helped him refine that goal. “I hope to a member of the advance team,” he says. “Working the team again after graduation as a full-time employee is the ultimate goal.”


Boardwalk

A press conference on the boardwalk in Lavalette, N.J.

Matt Palmisano and Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie and Matt Palmisano, '14

Photo credit: Tim Larsen