Like most Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill, Leecia Eve ’90 is appreciative that Senator Jim Jeffords ’62 decided to bolt from the GOP and tip the Senate balance of power to the Democrats. As Senator Hillary Clinton’s counsel, Eve knows that being the majority party has its advantages. Yet her reaction reflects more than a strategic analysis of party power. It demonstrates a lifetime belief in the value of public service.
“He felt that he was doing something that was in the best interest of his state and country, and that was consistent with his moral compass,” said Eve. “I think that took an awful lot of courage. When someone does something that’s very courageous like that, it kind of renews your spirit as to why we, at the staff level, are doing what we’re doing.”
A belief in public service has been inculcated in Eve from an early age. Her father, Arthur Eve, the deputy speaker of the New York State Assembly, has been in the state legislature since Eve was 2. “He taught me . . . the importance of having good people in government so that people’s lives can be affected positively,” said Eve. “What he has done with his life has made such a positive impression on me.”
Her ingrained belief in the power and importance of government led Eve to jump at the opportunity to become a high-level aide for Senator Clinton despite her successful career at the upstate New York law firm of Hodgson Russ–where she was the first African-American general partner.
Eve’s responsibilities in Clinton’s office allow her to touch on many policy areas, including intellectual property, election reform, antitrust, abortion, ethics, and immigration. Despite the extensive list, Eve noted, “You can’t work on 5,000 issues even though you might care about 5,000 things.”
As the highest-ranking African-American on Clinton’s staff, Eve knows that many in New York and Washington look to her as a leader and a role model. She views this as a responsibility rather than a burden.
“It’s an additional thing that keeps me going, helps keeps me focused, and helps me to try to do the best job I possibly can,” she said.
Of particular interest to Eve is an issue that is felt deeply in the minority community: racial profiling. Clinton is one of three primary cosponsors of a bill that would prohibit racial profiling, a practice that Eve says “deprives Americans of not just civil liberties, but basic dignity.” In helping to craft the legislation, Eve worked closely with civil rights groups and the law enforcement community to create a bill that would respect civil liberties while forcing the police to base stops on objective criteria. Though she acknowledges that not all law enforcement agencies are on board yet, Eve says support for the legislation is growing.
Calling Clinton “literally the brightest person I’ve ever met,” Eve relishes the challenge of working in the highly charged Washington atmosphere. However, running for office in her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., remains an alluring possibility. “I’ve definitely thought about it, and continue to think about it,” she said. “But, for now, serving as Senator Clinton’s counsel is satisfying my public service urge, because I very much feel that I am helping her serve New York and the country.”