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Spotlight: Deputy Minority Leader of Assembly and Author

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin is articulate enough to have just finished her second book and tough enough to survive New Jersey politics – and she has the bruises to prove it.

*Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth) *

Title: Deputy Leader of the Assembly Minority and associate professor of marketing, Monmouth University

Age: 54

Why she matters: Senior woman in the Assembly Republican leadership and author of a new book, Be Your Own Lobbyist: How to Give Your Small Business Big Clout with State and Local Government.

Why she wrote it: Wearing her dual hats as politician and marketing professor made her aware that many small businesses do not realize they should fight for equitable treatment from government and what’s more, don’t know how to do so. She says that many of her graduate students are small business-people who often feel utterly powerless to influence decisions that can affect their bottom line. “They often pick my brain about what to do.”

One thing she’d like people to take away from the book: “I want readers to believe in the power of advocacy -- one person can make a difference, whether it is on behalf of their own small business or on behalf of other needs.”

What makes lobbying a survival skill: “When your livelihood is on the line, the anxiety can be overwhelming,” she says. “That’s why lobbying is a survival skill, not just a smart way of operating. A small business can be one ordinance away from closing its doors due to a change in a town building restriction, property maintenance code or new regulation. These things can drains profits, drive customers out of state or online.” Her advice boils down to using the three building blocks of advocacy: targeting the right government officials, using the appropriate tools at your disposal and deploying the necessary tactics to achieve your goals.

How she got here: She got involved in Middletown politics in order to save open space and to bring order to the frenzied development that was then occurring. She later served as a town committeewoman, deputy mayor and freeholder. She’s been in the state Assembly since 2006, currently serving on the Health and Senior Services and Law and Public Safety committees.

On politics: It’s a tough, tough business in New Jersey. But it’s worth the bruises.

A recent controversial vote: Handlin, who is active on the Women’s Legislative Caucus, particularly on health issues, voted with most of her party and against the caucus recommendation to reinstate $7.5 million in state funding to women’s clinics. “That was painful and it wasn’t ideological -- it was just a budgetary vote.”

On how Trenton has changed: “The landscape is almost unrecognizable since Chris Christie has taken the reins. He’s moving aggressively to do things we’ve been advocating for years.”

Family: Handlin, who grew up in Monmouth County, is the first in her family to be involved in politics. She sounds a bit regretful that her two children, both students at Harvard, her alma mater, have eschewed her chosen field. Her son Daniel is studying to be an aeronautics engineer; her daughter Rebecca, is joining the ROTC program and hopes to work with languages in navy intelligence. “My daughter reminds me that that is public service too.” Handlin’s husband David is an anesthesiologist.

Lee Keough is managing editor of NJSpotlight.com

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