Shapiro transition team pulls in experience from Democratic and Republican administrations

‘It obviously sends a very strong and sincere message that he’s wanting to get stuff done,’ T.J. Rooney said

By: - November 23, 2022 3:38 pm

Then-Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro addressed supporters at campaign event on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Philadelphia. (Capital-Star photo by Peter Hall)

A onetime law partner of Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro, who served in Democratic and Republican gubernatorial administrations, will lead Shapiro’s transition team.

Shapiro on Tuesday announced William R. Sasso, a GOP power broker and former chairperson of the Philadelphia law firm Stradley Ronon will be chairperson of the incoming administration’s 11-member transition leadership board

It includes representatives of organized labor, industry and health care to prepare to advance Shapiro’s priorities of growing the state’s economy, improving public safety and expanding public education opportunities.

Lt. Gov.-elect Austin Davis will be chairperson of the transition’s personnel committee, which also includes a bipartisan group of labor, business and community leaders.

Sasso recently stepped down as chairperson of Stradley Ronon, the Philadelphia law firm where Shapiro practiced early in his career, and remains as chairperson emeritus. He also served as senior counsel to Shapiro’s transition team after he was elected attorney general in 2016. 

A contributor to Republican and Democratic campaigns, Sasso held appointments from Gov. Tom Wolf to serve on the board of Independence Blue Cross and from former Gov. Tom Corbett as a commissioner of the Delaware River Port Authority and chairperson of the Pennsylvania Investment and Redevelopment Authority.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell said Shapiro’s choice of Sasso, and others who have worked with Shapiro in his previous elected offices, provides confidence in their judgment. Others from Rendell’s administration including government relations consultant Steven Crawford, who was Rendell’s chief of staff, and Susan Jacobson, who was a deputy chief of staff, have backgrounds working with Shapiro, Rendell said.

“You’re not going to be able to read all of the policy papers and do all of the interviews so you have to have total confidence in your team,” Rendell said.

Political observers said Shapiro’s choices signal openness and a desire to work collaboratively.

“It obviously sends a very strong and sincere message that he’s wanting to get stuff done,” T.J. Rooney, a former chairperson of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said. “In order to govern effectively you need this kind of broad-based coalition.”

Rooney and others said they were not surprised to see James Schultz, who served as associate White House counsel under President Donald Trump, on the team. Schultz served in the role for less than a year and also was general counsel to Corbett. 

“I view him in the same way as a lot of other people who served in the Trump administration who called enough when things went too far,” Rooney said. “I don’t hold it against anybody who truly wants to serve.”

The inclusion of people from both sides of the aisle gives a new governor the benefit of broad experience and diverse viewpoints, Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia-based public affairs consultant, said.

“With experience comes the ability to avoid mistakes that get made or see issues or questions come around again that have already been answered,” Ceisler said. “You certainly want to reinvent the wheel but you don’t have to reinvent the whole wheel.”

Leslie Gromis Baker, who served as Corbett’s chief of staff, said the team appears well-rounded and includes representatives of parties that are likely to have policy issue interests in the new administration. 

“It says how he has governed in the past in previous roles and how he ran his campaign that he is going to be open and inclusive,” Gromis Baker said. “No matter what your ideology is, he wants to work with those who have the best ideas to move Pennsylvania forward.”

In a statement Tuesday, Shapiro’s office said after the Thanksgiving holiday, the transition team will be announcing advisory committees of policy experts, community advocates, and business, industry and labor leaders.

The members of the transition leadership board are:

  • William Sasso, chairman emeritus of Stradley Ronon
  • Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council 
  • Gregory E. Deavens, president and CEO of Independence Health Group
  • Angela Ferritto, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO
  • Thomas B. Hagen, chairman of the board of Erie Indemnity Company, former Pennsylvania secretary of commerce and secretary of community & Economic Development under Gov. Tom Ridge
  • Laura Karet, CEO of Giant Eagle and chairperson of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development 
  • Jannie K. Lau, lawyer and retired technology company executive
  • Charisse Lillie, CEO of CRL Consulting, former assistant United States attorney, Philadelphia city solicitor
  • Neil T. O’Donnell, founder of O’Donnell Law Offices
  • Michelle Singer, senior vice president at Comcast 
  • Retiring state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene

The transition personnel committee members are: 

  • Chairperson Austin Davis, Lt. Gov-elect
  • Curtis Aiken, president, CEO and founder of ProTech Compliance
  • Madeline Bell, president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Norman Bristol Colón, executive director of the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, founder and chairman of the Pennsylvania Latino Convention
  • Steven Crawford, president and partner at Wojdak Government Relations, former secretary for legislative affairs and chief of staff to Governor Ed Rendell
  • Robert Fox, managing partner at Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, former chair of the Lower Merion Environmental Advisory Council, Planning Commission, and Zoning Hearing Board
  • J. David Henderson, executive director of AFSCME Council 13
  • Joseph Hill, senior principal at Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies
  • Susan Jacobson, president at Jacobson Strategic Communications, former deputy chief of staff to Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell
  • Farnam Jahanian, president of Carnegie Mellon University
  • Jerry Johnson, president and CEO of Axum Advisors
  • Kevin Kinross, consultant at The Carey Group, former chief of staff to Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and former special assistant to Gov. Ed Rendell 
  • Ben Kirshner, former founder, chairman and CEO of Tinuiti
  • Lauren Lambrugo, chief operating officer of Public Health Management Corporation 
  • Jennifer Liptak, chief of staff to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald
  • Leslie Anne Miller, attorney and former general counsel of Pennsylvania under Gov. Ed Rendell
  • Marshall Mitchell, senior pastor at the Salem Baptist Church of Abington, former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Floyd Flake
  • Joseph Neubauer, former CEO of Aramark 
  • James D. Schultz, partner at Holland & Knight, former general counsel to Gov. Tom Corbett and associate white house counsel under President Donald Trump
  • Judith M. von Seldeneck, founder and chairperson of Diversified Search Group
  • Andréa Stanford, vice president, Pittsburgh Regional Manager at BNY Mellon, former assistant county manager of Allegheny County and senior advisor for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services
  • Nathaniel Yap, former director at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts

Mira Baylson, of Cozen O’Connor, Tracey McCants Lewis, deputy general counsel and director of human resources for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and David Nasatir, chairperson at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel will serve as legal counsel for the transition.

Roy Temple, the former executive director of Wolf’s transition team, and Rob Ghormoz, a senior advisor to Wolf and co-executive director of his inauguration will serve as senior advisors to the Shapiro transition team.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.