OUR TEAM

The entire MPS team has years of experience on the city, state, and national levels. Since its inception in 2013, MPS has become a driving force in public affairs campaigns.

Since the founding of MPS in 2013, Neal Kwatra has been at the forefront of the most hotly contested political and advocacy campaigns in New York and across the nation.

 

In his first year running MPS, Kwatra made history - leading Ken Thompson to victory as the first-ever African American to be elected Brooklyn District Attorney and the first challenger to defeat an incumbent D.A. in more than 100 years in Kings County. In that same year, Kwatra also served as chief strategist for the successful Vote Yes on Proposal 1 campaign to bring full casino gaming operations to New York State as part of the largest expansion of gaming in the history of New York. 

Founder & CEO

NEAL KWATRA

Fresh off these three historic victories, Kwatra helped guide the 2014 re-election of Governor Andrew Cuomo, serving as a political and media strategist for the campaign that led to the first time a Democrat was re-elected as Governor of New York in over two decades.

 

Following that election, Kwatra expanded the reach of MPS into the strategic management of nationally recognized grassroots and issue advocacy campaigns, including: the #FightFor15 where New York became the first state to pass a $15 minimum wage; the United for Affordable NYC campaign that enacted the largest affordable housing program in the country; the passage of transformative criminal justice reforms on behalf of the Innocence Project, Paid Family Leave, Tuition Free College and medical marijuana expansion legislation in New York; and the ShareBetter campaign that has driven a global movement to enact regulations around Airbnb and the short-term rental industry.

 

In recent election cycles, Kwatra has also served as chief strategist behind a multi-state Independent Expenditure campaign that flipped four nationally targeted Congressional seats as part of the new Democratic Majority in the House, the election of the New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and winning campaigns for over a dozen state and local races.

 

With management of the Broward County Transportation Ballot Referendum - which won 60% of the vote in 2018 making it the largest transportation ballot referendum in the country - Kwatra led the expansion of MPS to Florida where he quickly developed a strategic campaign operation to help Democrats win key state legislative, Congressional and issue campaigns. In its inaugural year in Florida, MPS played a key role in flipping a State Senate seat that had been in Republican hands for years, winning a highly competitive County Commissioner race in Miami Dade County, and running the international hotel union’s successful Independent Expenditure campaign in support of Florida’s Constitutional Amendment 4. 

 

Prior to founding MPS, from 2011-2013, Neal Kwatra served as Chief of Staff in the Office of the New York State Attorney General, 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, and 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.

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 into one of the most potent political forces in the state, and 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.​

Kwatra was named to Crain’s New York Business “40 Under Forty” in 2012. He is consistently recognized in City and State's "Power 100" in both New York City and Albany including their 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 lists.

@nealkwatra

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.

President 

AUSTIN SHAFRAN

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 2008.

 

@austinshafran

Rochelle Kelly-Apson has spent her career working in government, labor, and on political campaigns. She began honing her organizing skills with the Hotel Trade Council union, where she helped teach members about their contractual rights and increase their political awareness.

 

Using those skills, she went on to hold key roles in over a dozen campaigns including multiple NYC Council races, the NYS Governor’s race in 2010 and the NYS Attorney General’s 2010 and 2014 races.

Vice President of Organizing

ROCHELLE KELLY-APSON

In 2010, Kelly-Apson joined the Attorney General’s office as the Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, where she lead the organizing and outreach efforts for several landmark initiatives and issues. These included the Homeowner Protection Program which funded housing counselors and attorneys as part of the OAG’s mortgage crisis relief efforts, and the appointment of the AG as Special Prosecutor in cases of unarmed civilian deaths by law enforcement. She’s also a named contributor in the 2013 OAG Stop and Frisk report which highlighted the disparity in law enforcement stops of minorities in NYS.

 

In 2016, Kelly-Apson joined the Executive Chamber as the Governor’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the downstate area which included all of NYC and Long Island, where she oversaw elected official and community stakeholder outreach efforts on all issues that affected NYC and Long Island. Most recently she was deputy chief of staff for the Hempstead Town Supervisor, where she helped the new administration successfully complete its first year.

@rochellek08

As Director of Digital Strategy at MPS, Terra serves to build an online presence and digital movement behind our client's political, electoral, and issue-based efforts. She is skilled at building an audience, driving online engagement into offline action, and transforming messaging for digital communications.

Director of Digital Strategy

TERRA SETZLER

At MPS, Terra has been a major player in big wins on local, state, and national campaigns. Running digital campaigns including the New York Immigration Coalition's push for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and the fight against Airbnb for the Share Better Coalition. 

 

Terra brings together all the major tenets of a digital campaign with her background in data science, graphic design, and years of grassroots campaign work. Prior to joining MPS, Terra worked for Hillary for America and Planned Parenthood, while studying data science and graphic design in her free time. With these skills, she manages campaigns with a holistic view and works with clients to turn their #goals into #wins. 

 

 

@TerraSetzler

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. 

Director of Operations 

JASON HEARD

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.

@jasonwheard