Sarah V. Compo, 29: New York State Senate

 

Sarah V. Compo has a ground-floor view of local politics, and she plans to use it to improve Northern New York.

“One of the most exciting things is being able to help residents of the north country with different issues they might have,” she said. “It’s really rewarding when you’re able to help someone.”

Ms. Compo has been gaining experience that put her in a position to help since she was in college. After working as an intern on the “Today” show in New York City for a semester in college, she got word that the show’s financial editor, Jean Chatzky, was looking for a reporting assistant.

Following an interview, she landed the job. During the next couple of years, Ms. Compo gained experience that she brought back to the north country after her stint in the Big Apple. Some people would use a reporting job with Ms. Chatzky as a stepping stone to a bigger position within the city; Ms. Compo used it as a stepping stone to come home.

“I decided at the end of two years that I wanted to try something different,” she said. “During my time in New York, I had missed being home and missed my family.While I was in New York and drawing to the end of two years, I knew it was time for a change. I decided to come home and explore what is here.”

Looking back, Ms. Compo said she’s glad that she followed her heart back to the north country. It helped teach her an important lesson: “I think I’ve learned that you need to do what’s right for yourself and you can’t care about what other people think,” she said.

Being home is a breath of fresh air for Ms. Compo after having lived in a city of nearly 9 million people.

“I really like the sense of community [in the north country]. I like that I can go pretty much anywhere and know someone,” she said. “The other thing is, it’s a lot easier to make connections with people and see the impact you have on the place you live.”

Not everyone has the same positive attitude toward her hometown as Ms. Compo. There are those who complain that there’s nothing to do, especially in the winter months, she noted.

“We need to keep getting young people engaged in the community,” she said. “First, I think we need to keep doing things that encourage the creation of really good jobs that encourage people to stay in the area. And we need to keep different community events going.”

Another way that young community members can get engaged is to follow in Ms. Compo’s footsteps in the world of politics. She offered some advice for those in the next generation who want to get involved.

“One of the main things to get your foot in the door is to volunteer. A lot of offices are looking for volunteers during the campaign season,” she said, adding that it’s also helpful to read about and be knowledgeable on the issues.

Ms. Compo said that while right now she’s unsure of what role she wishes to eventually play in politics, she probably would like to get more involved as her career progresses.
“I’m interested in any role that would let me make a difference in Northern New York,” she said. “I’ve always had an interest in politics and history, and even more so in the political process as I’ve grown older.”

Working in politics has revealed to Ms. Compo what she believes is one of the biggest myths in the field: the negativity associated with it.

“A lot of people have a negative perception, and it’s really not all negative,” she explained. “The biggest part of the job is helping constituents. As long as you have a good person in office, there shouldn’t be any kind of negative perception with politics.”

— by Lorna Oppedisano

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The Sarah V. Compo File

Hometown: Watertown

Professional position: Communications director/deputy district director for New York State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, Watertown

Family: Parents, Tom and Judy Compo; sister, Ann

Education: Bachelor’s in communications and business studies, SUNY Geneseo

Community involvement: Owner, Soirée! NNY event planning; board member, North Country Arts Council; board member, Lucy’s House; volunteer, Paddle for Betterment

Last book read: “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand