Stephanie Lagos plays a role in the New Jersey government

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Age: 32

Birthplace: Wyckoff

Home: Princeton

Profession: Chief of Staff to the First Lady of New Jersey, Tammy Murphy

As an influential member of the state government, the First Lady of New Jersey has a demanding and important job. Luckily for First Lady Tammy Murphy, she also has a bright and diligent young chief of staff by her side. At just 32 years old, Stephanie Lagos holds a prominent place in the New Jersey government and feels lucky to love her job.

“There are very few opportunities in life where you can really make a difference, and every day we can do it,” says Lagos from her office in Trenton, right next to Governor Phil Murphy’s office, where she works. since November 2017.

“Whether it’s maternal and child health or giving a speech that impacts a classroom or an organization, this is an incredible opportunity,” she says.

Growing up in Wyckoff, Lagos didn’t always know she wanted a career in politics. But after graduating from Christopher Newport University in Virginia, she joined the Peace Corps and made her way. “I was in Ghana, West Africa, for two and a half years, working on environmental sustainability in a small fishing and farming village with no running water,” she says. “I wasn’t very politically inclined before I left, but while serving in the Peace Corps, I realized how great we really are in this country and how amazing our government structure is. ”

The experience, she says, completely changed her perspective on politics. “I came back and got my masters in public policy knowing I wanted to come home and work in New Jersey.”

Fight for change

Lagos dated Carnegie Mellon as a Coverdell Fellow and returned to Bergen County to work in politics. “I knew I wanted to make a difference, and at the time Roy Cho was running against Scott Garrett for Congress, so I joined his campaign to work on politics,” she says.

When Cho’s CFO resigned, Lagos accepted the role. “I learned on my feet,” she says. “Unfortunately he lost, but it was an amazing opportunity to learn the financial aspects of running a campaign.”

Before Cho’s campaign ended, she received an offer to become the legislative director of MP Gary Schaer, who represents southern Bergen County and Passaic in the state assembly. “They said: ‘If [Cho] wins, we understand you can’t come, but if he doesn’t win, we’d love to have you, ”she recalls.

Lagos was Schaer’s legislative director for about two years before becoming his deputy chief of staff. “Basically I was able to manage his legislative portfolio and make sure that at the end of the day we had legislation that matched his agenda and that we were promoting that legislation to help him move it forward.” , she says. Schaer was also the chairman of the budget, which allowed Lagos to see the inner workings of the state departments and government.

Although she enjoyed her job with the congregation member, Lagos soon received an offer that was too good to refuse. “When Phil Murphy was running for governor, I met his political director at the time and they were looking for a senior political advisor for the campaign,” she says. “They asked me if I would be interested, and the congregation member thought it was a great opportunity, so I got into the campaign.”

Rising political star

Following Governor Murphy’s victory, Lagos began her current role as Chief of Staff to the First Lady. “Our goal in the office of the first lady is to support the governor and the lieutenant governor as much as we can, to help them move their agenda forward and to be a support system as much as possible,” Lagos said. , adding that she was involved in almost everything Ms Murphy does as a first lady.

“We do events every week, she gives speeches, holds meetings… and she is an incredible substitute for the governor and the lieutenant governor, so we try to make sure that she is accessible as much as possible,” says- she.

Although its hours are long, Lagos does not hesitate to devote time to it. “I think with jobs like this you’re drawn to them because you want to make a difference, and you realize the hours are going to be long and it’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s going to be worth it. sadness. She says, noting that she wakes up early and often comes home at night to continue working.

“The first lady is also away on weekends, so we also work on weekends,” Lagos said.

Although she wants to continue working in politics and public policy, Lagos appreciates her current position so much that she doesn’t think about the future. And that is largely due to who she works for. “I work everyday for someone who really cares about New Jersey,” she says. “The First Lady and I get along incredibly well which makes my job fun. The fact that she is bright, articulate and caring makes my job much easier. She’s going to break the mold of what we typically see in first ladies and I’m just honored to be a part of it. “

A bright future

Her commute is much easier now that she lives in Princeton, but she often returns to Bergen County to visit her father in Wyckoff and her grandmother in Mahwah. “I have two little nieces who often come to visit us for the summer, so when I come back I take them to Abma’s farm and Van Saun park to see the animals,” she says, adding that she also enjoys hiking in the Ramapo mountains with friends. .

Although she never imagines herself running for office, with her work ethic and determination, there is no limit to the Lagos star’s rise in politics. But for now, she is focused on the job at hand. “I’m so happy where I am and it started in so many ways,” she says. “I put it all in this and have a great time doing it.”

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