Founder & CEO
Since the founding of MPS, Neal Kwatra has been at the forefront of the most competitive strategic public affairs and electoral campaigns in New York and across the nation. Kwatra’s inaugural efforts with MPS included the election of Ken Thompson as the first challenger to defeat an incumbent District Attorney in Brooklyn in more than 100 years and the first ever African-American to be elected District Attorney of Kings County. In the same election cycle, Kwatra served as chief strategist behind the successful Vote Yes on Proposal 1 campaign to expand commercial gaming in New York State, and the election of the first female mayor of New Haven, CT. The following year, Kwatra helped guide the re-election of Governor Andrew Cuomo, as a political and media strategist for the campaign. Since that time, Kwatra has led MPS’s work on nationally recognized issue and political campaigns including efforts to raise the minimum wage in NY to $15, establish the largest affordable housing program in the country, enact the Innocence Project’s criminal justice reforms to combat wrongful conviction, and elect the Speaker of the New York City Council.
Prior to founding MPS, Neal Kwatra served as Chief of Staff in the Office of the New York State Attorney General from 2011-2013, where he managed and directed the overall strategic direction of the office, as well as its day-to-day operations. In this capacity, Neal helped the office aggressively pursue major mortgage fraud cases against some of the nation’s largest financial institutions in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and was the architect of a strategic legal campaign to hold Wall Street firms accountable. In 2012, Kwatra helped the office successfully pass a statewide measure called the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP), which was designed to help stem the tide of prescription drug abuse by creating a system to electronically monitor drug prescriptions. Kwatra also led an AG Office effort to overhaul the state’s not-for-profit campaign finance regulations, putting New York at the forefront of the nation’s debate over dark money in politics.
Before working in the Attorney General’s office, Kwatra was the Director of Political and Strategic Affairs at the New York Hotel Trades Council, the largest local union of hotel employees in the nation. Between 2008 and 2011, Kwatra helped turn HTC’s 30,000 members into one of the most potent political forces in the state, leading a political operation that helped Democrats capture their first majority in the New York State Senate in nearly four decades. With HTC, Kwatra also led the union’s work on behalf of two dozen successful New York City council campaigns, the re-election of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the winning campaigns of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Comptroller Tom Dinapoli.
Under Kwatra, HTC, which had not previously had an internal political operation, became a New York political heavyweight known for its members’ effective campaign volunteer work and its staff’s organizing and political research skills. Prior to his work at HTC, Neal served as the Deputy Director of Strategic Affairs for UNITE HERE, the national hotel worker’s union, where he founded and led the union’s new hotel development program. This program was the single most successful program for organizing new workers into the union in UNITE HERE’s history.
Senior Vice President
Throughout his career in politics, Austin Shafran has served as a communications strategist, spokesperson, speechwriter, and legislative director for many prominent city, state and national political campaigns and governmental offices.
Prior to joining Metropolitan Public Strategies as Vice President for Strategic Affairs, Austin served as Legislative Director for the Working Families Party, where he managed the operation of their city, state and federal issue-based campaigns and legislative advocacy, including efforts to raise the NYS minimum wage and enact campaign finance reform.
In 2011, Austin was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to help manage the centerpiece of the state’s job growth and business development program as Vice President of Public Affairs for Empire State Development Corp. Austin also served as a communications strategist and speechwriter for the Cuomo administration.
Before joining the Cuomo administration, Austin served as Press Secretary for the NYS Senate Democratic Conference, where he was the chief media strategist and spokesperson for successful legislative campaigns to pass historic Marriage Equality legislation, fair share tax reform, expanded affordable housing protections, and criminal and social justice reforms. Austin also served as Communications Director for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, leading political campaigns that led to the first Democratic Majority in the State Senate in over 40 years.
Austin began his career in public service working as a Special Assistant to Congressman Gary Ackerman, and Director of Communications for NYC Council Finance Chair David Weprin. He was also named a “Rising Star” by the Queens Courier and one of the “Top 40 Under 40” by City & State NY.
Director of Communications and Digital Media
For more than a decade, Travis Proulx has held executive communication positions in and outside of state government, where he has crafted and managed several public policy and political campaigns.
Prior to joining Metropolitan Public Strategies, Travis served as Communications Director for Environmental Advocates of New York, the state’s leading green government watchdog. While there, he executed the earned media, social media, event planning, digital design, and more on campaigns which have helped to establish Governor Cuomo as a national environmental leader, including the state’s fracking ban, climate action, and historic investments in clean water infrastructure.
In 2011, Travis was appointed Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), one of New York’s largest agencies with 21,000 employees, where he managed external and internal communications as OPWDD enacted system-wide reforms to improve the health and safety, and overall quality of care for hundreds of thousands of people.
Travis also served as Deputy Press Secretary for the New York State Senate Democratic Conference, where his campaign work helped build a Democratic Majority for the first time in more than 40 years. While in the Senate, Travis coordinated communications operations between 32 senatorial offices, as well as central staff photography, social media, and more.
Travis’s government career began as the Communications Director for State Senator Liz Krueger. He was named a “40 Under 40” by City & State NY in 2010, and was an Urvashi Vaid Fellow with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He has his masters from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and bachelors from St. Lawrence University.
Senior Digital Manager
Abby is a practiced social media and digital strategist with years of experience at some of the top media organizations in New York.
She guided the launch strategy for Al Jazeera America and spearheaded coverage of the war in Syria, the government shutdown and several significant international incidents.
Abby guided social media and editorial initiatives at Fusion as well as created and led the strategic, social media and partnership teams for A Plus.
Senior Campaign Analyst
James Pagano is an experienced media strategist from the nationally recognized media buying firm – National Cable Communications (NCC) – that specializes in the tactical development and placement of sophisticated cable and digital media buy programs. With an expertise in the targeting, planning and execution of strategic television, digital, consumer marketing media buys and campaigns, James has led the execution of strategic media buy and marketing operations for major political and corporate clients across every major media market in the nation.
James also has a background in legislative research and field organizing, having worked at the highest levels of political campaigns, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Obama for America, and dozens of City Council and mayoral races.
Aimen has a diverse experience of working in strategy consulting for international economic development. Previously with organizations including USAID and AusAID, she worked directly with the public sector to provide policy recommendations on inclusive economic growth. She also has the experience of designing and implementing a variety of development initiatives across countries in partnership with the public and private sector.
As a Fulbright Scholar, Aimen got her graduate degree at Columbia University in New York.
After more than two decades as one of Florida’s most effective labor leaders and Democratic Party operatives, Andy Madtes left his role as AFSCME Florida Executive Director and South Florida Central Labor Council President to lead MPS’s Florida branch.
As Executive Director of AFSCME Florida, the largest state worker union in Florida, representing 110,000 public sector workers and President of the South Florida Central Labor Council, representing 150,000 active and retired workers across Miami and the surrounding counties, Madtes led the organizing and political affairs campaigns for various trades, professional and public sector unions across the state.
During Madtes’ time as one of Florida’s preeminent labor leaders, he was widely recognized for his tireless advocacy to advance labor rights and his skillful bargaining on behalf of workers that led to favorable contracts with some of the largest corporations in America, including Hilton Hotels and Starwood International.
With crucial opportunities for Democrats to make strategic gains in 2018 and beyond, Madtes will lead the expansion of MPS into arguably the most fertile battleground in the nation for Democrats. From legislative races statewide, to some of the most competitive Congressional seat targets, MPS and Madtes will bring their unique combination of strategic political and communications services to give Democrats the edge they need to succeed in must-win campaigns.
Jason’s experience as a financial professional spans 20+ years with a diverse range of clients from the legal industry, medical, public relations, non-profits and the hotel industry. His focus is on improving financial efficiencies, increasing the bottom-line and streamlining the accounting processes for his clients.
Prior to being an independent consultant, Jason was the COO of a real estate law firm and a financial advisor with American Express.
Not long after college, Jason spent two years living and working in the south of France for a software company (one of his clients that hired him after his consulting with them for just 3 months). This experience was critical in understanding the diverse people and business situations that he would encounter throughout his career. Jason continues to focus on professional development and staying current on all aspects of business financial management.
Jonaliza D. Misa
Public Affairs Advisor
Jonaliza D. Misa’s experience in government and public affairs expands for almost a decade, starting at Urban League for Bergen County and National Action Network where she began to embrace her skills in communications and digital media.
From there, she joined the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee where she became a key player in its day-to-day operations and worked closely with Senate Democratic members to help achieve their campaign goals.
Prior to joining Metropolitan Public Strategies, she was an integral member of the Communications Team for Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, being recognized in 2015 as one of City and State’s “40 Under 40” for her work. During her free time, she consulted for various non-profits and political organizations including Clean Ocean Access, New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Cecilia Tkaczyk for State Senate and the New York State Dems. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech and currently resides in Astoria.
Members of the MPS team have worked in senior positions for numerous prominent labor and government entities, including UNITE HERE, the New York Hotel Trades Council, Empire State Development Corporation, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the New York Attorney General’s office, the New York State Senate, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.