By Jay Roberson
George Helmy, who previously served as the state director to U.S. Senator Cory Booker and was the longest-tenured chief of staff for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, was welcomed to Rider by the Rebovich Institute on Oct. 24 at Sweigart Hall.
He was introduced by Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, who began by talking about Helmy’s career in government.
He stated, “Going back 200 years this is a position that really means a lot in the state. So I wanted to have students and members of the community better understand the role that this person plays in state government and how they helped the state government run.”
The night began with questions from Rasmussen before allowing audience members to participate.
Helmy gave advice to aspiring politicians that may be discouraged by today’s political environment.
He said, “Don’t make decisions on self preservation. Too often, staffers will make decisions based on, ‘How do I make the boss like me?’ ‘How do I cut a better deal here that’s in my best interest for my next job?’ If you’re just a bobbing head in every room …You might have a very long career in politics, but you’ll not be involved in politics.”
He also spoke about the ways he managed to prioritize the plethora of issues that the state government deals with on a daily basis as the chief of staff.
“It’s all power mapping,” Helmy said. “First of all, one of my goals, identifying very clearly your priorities for the month and priorities for the year. If your thing wasn’t on my board, it isn’t our priority, so that’s how I communicated it to our team.”
Freshman political science major Liam McGuiness gave his reasons for attending the event, which was to learn more about domestic politics.
He said, “If I could start locally … then I can move on gradually to national and international. You gotta start small and this is it right here.”
Rasmussen hoped that this event could help students and community members better understand the government and how relationships are a key factor in working in government.
“Politics is about relationships … You take care of people and return phone calls, those are some of the hallmarks people respond to,” Rasmussen said. “So I expect students are going to get a better understanding of how politics really works in the real world.”
Politicians can seem cold to some, but Helmy brought up the ways he and Murphy attempted to humanize things, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It wasn’t a political ploy that came from the governor. The governor for 200 something press conferences named three human lives that we lost. Every single time. He called every single family of those people before we mourned them,” said Helmy.
The most emphasized point Helmy spoke about is, as a politician, one must be able to form relationships with others even if their beliefs are different.
“You’re in the relationship business, whether you’re in supply chain or logistics or you’re selling complicated debt structures, you’re in the relationship business,” said Helmy.