Managing The Vision: At the helm of Sheriff Tompkins' campaign, Melissa Morel guides more than politics
Almost immediately following the success of his first campaign, which transformed him from an appointee into elected official slated fill out the remaining two years of the six-year term left by his predecessor in 2014, Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins began thoughtfully laying the groundwork for his 2016 reelection campaign.
Refusing to rest on his laurels after a sweeping victory in which he would claim more than 83% of the vote, Sheriff Tompkins set out to fortify the core of an already-diverse team of operatives by recruiting a capable crew that was even more reflective of the people he represents on a daily basis in Suffolk County. With approximately 75% of the people in the care and custody of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department of black and Latino descent, it was of particular interest to have people aboard who could reach out to members of the community in need of greater representation.
Enter Melissa Morel, Campaign Manager for "Team Tompkins."
Born and raised in Santiago De Los Caballeros of the Dominican Republic, Morel traveled to the United States and attended high school in Weston, Florida where she was just one of five students chosen to work with the municipal government in the local city hall on such issues as law enforcement, parks and recreation, city planning and more.
"I decided to become involved in politics as I was finishing my Junior year in high school," Morel said, revealing an early interest in the mechanics of government. "Forging close relationships with local elected officials, along with the city manager and city attorney, I began to think about what kind of change I could effect to enhance government as a member of the community."
Taking her talents to Boston upon graduation, Morel enrolled at Boston University where she received her Bachelors and a Masters Degree in Political Science, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Working with several campaigns and elected officials along the way, Morel has served in various capacities with the Democratic National Committee, including positions with Democratic National Committee Chair and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, and former Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray. At each stop, Morel worked to hone her political savvy by immersing herself in a multitude of tasks ranging from sign assignments, dressing and staffing polls, managing wards, organizing stand-outs and events, door knocking, election day reporting, phone banking, and a host of other duties through which she achieved a deeper knowledge of the political process from the inside-out.
Eventually landing at MLM Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in Massachusetts local and statewide political fundraising, compliance, marketing and government work, Morel participated as a fellow for a candidate for Boston City Council At-Large and also organized several fundraising events before being introduced to Sheriff Tompkins during his 2014 campaign. For Morel, it was Sheriff Tompkins' focus on positive change through programming designed to not only prevent the men and women incarcerated in his facilities from returning once they are released back into the community, but to make them better able to care for themselves and their families with employable skills that attracted her to the campaign.
"I became increasingly involved with the Sheriff Tompkins Committee by organizing fundraisers and attending community events that highlighted Sheriff Tompkins' mission of care and custody of inmates and detainees," Morel remembers. "I strongly believe in Sheriff Tompkins' vision that in order to strengthen and advance our communities, mental health and substance abuse programming must be at the forefront. We must provide assistance to individuals with mental illness and tackle addiction to drugs and alcohol, and increase prevention and educational programs particularly tailored to young individual to help them to avoid the school-to-prison pipeline."
Speaking about the pilot of his 2016 campaign, the admiration is clearly mutual for Sheriff Tompkins.
"Melissa is an intelligent professional who is on the rise in the world of politics," said Sheriff Tompkins. "Though still in the early stages of her career, she has experienced a good deal and has worked hard to achieve at this level. I also value her perspective both as a Latina and as a woman, because her experiences through those lenses will help us as we reach out to what I believe has generally been an under-served constituency."
As the campaign moves into the final two months before the September 8th State Primary, Morel continues to stress both the body of work achieved by Sheriff Tompkins, and the important plans that lie ahead.
"Sheriff Tompkins is a public servant who truly values the importance of opportunities," said Morel. "It is a rare occurrence to come across an elected official so in-tune with the needs of the community that he serves and with such an affinity for justice, safety and social services."
"Being a female Latina born and raised in the Dominican Republic and now living in the U.S., I am acutely aware of the challenges that communities of color face on a daily basis, and Sheriff Tompkins has been a vocal advocate for all of us," Morel continued. "I have an immense amount of respect for Sheriff Tompkins because he is able to harness his influence to help better the lives of those he serves, whether they're remanded to one of his facilities, sitting inside a school classroom or outside working in the community."
Appointed to the position in 2013, Sheriff Tompkins won election in 2014 as a first-time candidate with over 83% of the vote. As the Sheriff of Suffolk County, Tompkins manages all operations at the Suffolk County House of Correction, the Nashua Street Jail and the Civil Process Division. In addition to providing care, custody and rehabilitative support for inmates and pre–trial detainees, Tompkins also oversees a management, security and administrative staff of over 1,000. Sheriff Tompkins holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Boston College and a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from the University of Massachusetts.