Spotlight: Campaign Manager

John Mooney | November 19, 2010 | Education
PENewark's Jeremiah Grace is looking to learn how Newark wants to spend its $100 million

Name: Jeremiah Grace

Age: 29

Title: Executive director, Partnership for Education in Newark (PENewark)

Why he matters: Grace is leading the public campaign launched by Mayor Cory Booker to seek Newarkers’ input about the $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Booker says the campaign’s report in two months will help determine how the Zuckerberg money – and another $100 million in expected matching funds — will be directed, as well as provide a framework for future reforms and the impending selection of a new school superintendent.

No novice to campaigns: Grace got the politics bug when he was a teenager growing up in Elizabeth, volunteering on the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign and ultimately being president himself, of the Elizabeth High School student council. After college at the University of Hartford, he continued to be politically active, served on the Elizabeth school board, and ran several local campaigns of his own, including that of Newark school board president Shavar Jeffries.

Is this campaign much different than those? For one, PENewark is a lot better financed and staffed, at a projected $1 million and 18 employees, full and part-time. But there are similarities. “The fact of the matter is people must get active. You want hard results and you want to generate excitement. It’s about elevating people’s voices, they need to be heard.”

A lot of door-knocking: So far, using more than 60 paid canvassers, PENewark. has visited 15,136 homes and spoken with 19,405 Newarkers. Grace said he’s knocked on about 60 doors himself. “I get motivation from it. There are some skeptics about us out there, but they don’t speak to the masses. The masses are embracing us.”

Skeptics? Oh, yes, with some critics contending that Booker has already decided on where the money and reforms are headed and the campaign is just a $1 million charade. Grace begs to differ, and can get pretty excited about that. “I value people’s voices, bottom line. To be skeptical about what we are doing is to devalue people’s voices.”

Hometown: Grace spent his youngest years in Newark, before moving to Elizabeth, and now lives in Newark again.