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Author: The BCW

Leadership Conversations Focuses on Senate Majority Leader’s Professional Journey

From left, BCW Chairman Jamie Schutzer; Joe McCoy, Market President Commercial Banking, Valley National Bank, BCW President & CEO Marsha Gordon; NY State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and BCW Executive Vice President & COO John Ravitz

The Business Council of Westchester’s Valley Bank Leadership Conversations welcomed New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Thursday to share insights into her career and personal journey.

Marsha Gordon, the BCW’s president and CEO, moderated the conversation at Kanopi in White Plains, where Stewart-Cousins recounted her diverse career path, including roles in customer service, sales, marketing, news reporting, and education. She explained how her various jobs equipped her with essential political skills like listening, communication, negotiation, and persuasion.

“My journalism taught me to crystallize my ideas and my teaching taught me the skill of making sure that I meet people where they are and expect the highest levels from them,” said Stewart-Cousins, who represents a sizable portion of Westchester County, including Yonkers where she resides. “I didn’t know that I would ever be in politics, but everything I learned made me a better—not only politician—but frankly a much better public servant.”

Her pursuit of journalism did not cure her initial fear of audiences.

“I always loved to tell stories, and believe it or not, I could not speak in public, so I chose print journalism,” said Stewart-Cousins, who eventually overcame her phobia when she became a schoolteacher.

Stewart-Cousins broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to lead the New York Senate, and she reflected on her parents’ limited career opportunities due to segregation in New York. Her political career began in the late 1980s when she volunteered for a Yonkers mayoral candidate who supported the city’s court-ordered desegregation, a pivotal moment that fueled her commitment to public service.

“When I got into government, I decided that I would be that person who removed barriers because…being a society that actually reflects the dreams of America requires us to be able to bring talented people to the table and not marginalize people because of who they are,” said Stewart-Cousins. “That’s why I’m here and that is my governing principle.”

Stewart-Cousins emphasized the importance of maintaining core beliefs beyond professional achievements, upholding integrity, and bringing personal authenticity to one’s work to contribute unique perspectives.

Regarding the cultivation of new talent, Stewart-Cousins said that aspiring leaders in any sector should possess a set of core personal principles.

“I need to make sure that the person at least believes enough in themself, because if you don’t believe in yourself, then you can’t sell yourself,” she said. “Be clear that you can bring something to this discussion that only you can bring, and you’re willing to work hard to be able to bring that added value.”

On working within a conference that includes viewpoints from across the state, Stewart-Cousins highlighted the importance of teamwork.

“If anybody’s seen the Senate these days, it is the most diverse Senate Majority that has ever existed in the history of the state and we are very proud of our diversity….It’s an amazing representation of so many different people so many different experiences,” said Stewart-Cousins. “When we come together, we are a TEAM—Together Everyone Accomplishes More.”

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