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Meet the first black woman to to serve as Floor Director in Congress

Shuwanza Goff circa 2010 (Facebook/AU School of Public Affairs)
By Selena Hill
Black Enterprise

On Thursday, the 116th U.S. Congress ushered in its most diverse body of elected officials in the nation’s history. Included in this class is hotshot newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who, at 29 years old, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim congresswoman to wear a hijab. However, in addition to this inclusive collective of leaders comes congressional staffers set to make history. This includes Anne Reid, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s new chief of staff and the only black woman serving in this role for a Democratic senator, and Shuwanza Goff, the first African American woman floor director.

In her new position, Goff will help House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer decide on the Democrat Party’s agenda. “It’s a little daunting, but it’s also exciting,” the veteran House Democratic staffer told Politico.

Goff formerly served as the director of legislative operations for Hoyer’s office, where she communicated with Democrats and Republicans on legislation and where Democrats stood in bipartisan matters. Now, Goff is responsible for managing the floor—a critical but low-profile role.

“As a member of my staff for over 10 years, Shuwanza has developed strong relationships with members and staff on both sides of the aisle, demonstrated deep understanding of floor procedure, and exhibited good judgment and political instincts,” Hoyer told Politico. “The House will continue to benefit from her intellect, hard work, and dedication.”

According to Politico:

“Goff describes her role as driving the agenda and determining what bills lawmakers vote on, saying she’ll assist Hoyer in scheduling bills as they’re preparing to leave committees and head to the House floor. She also says a large part of the position entails coordinating with committees, parliamentarians, the Senate — to some extent — and the White House on “what we’re doing, what our agenda is and what we’re bringing up for floor consideration.”

“She’ll also be managing weekly meetings with the minority whip operation and committee chairmen, prepping Hoyer for weekly colloquies with Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, and managing procedural requests to pass noncontroversial bills quicker.”

Last year, Goff opened up about the challenges she’s faced as the first African American woman hired to serve as the director of legislative operations for Hoyer back when he was the House Minority Whip. “When I [got my job], one of the greatest challenges I had to face was the pressure of being the first black woman in this role,” she told Roll Call. “Over the years, that pressure has subsided some, but it is certainly something that I’m still cognizant of.”

Now, Goff plans to use her new position of power to help other people of color elevate on Capitol Hill.

“I am obviously aware of the fact that on the Hill we need to do a better job when it comes to diversity,” she said, reports Politico. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of really good mentors, and I’m hopeful that in my role as the first African American to have this position and to be in a senior role that I am able to help more junior staffers find their way, climb up and eventually consume and take over some of these more senior roles as well.”

Goff interned for the federal government before launching her professional career in 2008 as a staff assistant in Hoyer’s office. Two years later she was promoted to floor aide and went on to serve as floor assistant and deputy floor director before being named as Hoyer’s director of legislative operations in 2012.

Goff graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in political science in 2006. She then obtained a master’s degree in justice, law, and society from American University in 2008.