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Lobbying gene runs in the family for Katz's co-founder

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'It's a really fantastic profession, despite the things one hears,' says Carol Katz.
'It's a really fantastic profession, despite the things one hears,' says Carol Katz. - (AARON HOUSTON)

Carol Katz didn't come to Trenton in 1990 to be a lobbyist.

She was only in the capital to help her father sell his business, which just happened to be lobbying.

But two weeks after her arrival, she found herself testifying at a legislative committee hearing.

At issue was a bill that would force bus drivers to keep the temperature inside their vehicles comfortably cool. Bus drivers had no problem with turning on the AC, but with people constantly opening windows and doors, it would be nearly impossible to keep the temperature within a specific range.

Speaking on behalf of the bus association, she had to convince legislators that such a bill only sounds good in theory.

"If you saw a bill like that, you'd say, 'Oh great idea,' " she said. "You would never know the logistical issues."

"So I nervously prepared my testimony," she said. "It turned out to be very easy."

And addicting.

"I have that 'I love lobbying' gene, but I didn't know it until I actually landed here and started doing it," Katz said. "I got bit by the bug, and I realized that it's a really fantastic profession, despite the things one hears."

Although she came to Trenton only to help her father transition into retirement, Katz ended up staying and embarking on a 23-year career in lobbying.

Ten years ago she launched her own firm, Katz Government Affairs, with her husband, Mark Connelly. They keep things small, with about 10 to 12 clients at any given time, but those clients have included major industry players, from CVS Caremark and eBay to the New Jersey Credit Union League and Princeton HealthCare System.

Even before she decided to plunge full force into lobbying, Katz knew the business intimately. Her father was at the helm of Katz, Martin, Brill & Company one of the top firms in the state before it was purchased by what would become Public Strategies Impact.

But Katz was certain she wouldn't follow in her father's footsteps. In her college entrance essay, she wrote about four possible careers she would like to have, and lobbying was nowhere on that list.

Instead, she majored in history at Amherst College and got her MBA from Harvard Business School. She worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, in Chicago, then spent years on Wall Street.

After the sale of her father's firm, Katz joined Public Strategies Impact, where she spent more than a decade before starting her own firm.

Since then, Katz has scored some major victories for clients across a variety of sectors. In 2011, she represented the New Jersey Credit Union League in a fight that would eventually allow credit unions to accept municipal deposits — a lucrative business once held exclusively by banks.

And after Hurricane Sandy hit, when people in affected areas needed access to prescription drugs, she helped CVS work with the state's Department of Health to open a mobile pharmacy in the parking lot of a washed-out store in Margate.

"We're another kind of advocate, and I think a really necessary one," Katz said. "It's a way for people making policy decisions to really get educated about what the impacts of their decisions are."

E-mail to: maryj@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @mjohns422

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