As a senior campaign adviser, she helped elect Kathy Hochul lieutenant governor and re-elect former Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Amelia Adams, who has never held elective office, is one of the most powerful women in New York State politics.
The 37-year-old political consultant joined Kathy Hochul’s governor race in 2021 and former Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017 – both won. And in 2018 she took on one of her toughest challenges, raising money for the privately funded Bard Prison Initiative, the biggest college program for the incarcerated in the state of New York. One year later, financial support for the initiative jumped to $1 million, supported by grants from state and local governments.
“If I had to compare consulting with a sport, I would choose football,” Adams said in an interview, seated in a conference room across the hall from her office and overlooking the Hudson River at the southern tip of Manhattan. “My job is basically rushing to get something ready and wait for the results. You can only hope that your work will have a positive impact on underserved communities.”
Crain’s New York Business selected Adams last month for its list of notable Black leaders in the city. “Throughout her career,” the editors wrote, “Adams has worked to advance the interests of two groups: women and members of the Black community.”
Adams discovered her dedication to racial justice when she became a senior advisor for New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in 2013, the first Latina woman to hold that position. Adams credits Mark-Viverito for pushing her out of her comfort zone and encouraging her to feel comfortable as a Black woman in the halls of power dominated by White men.
A turning point for Adams came when she accompanied her boss to a meeting at 1 Police Plaza to meet with New York City’s police commissioner at his headquarters. They entered a room full of clicking cameras and where they were the only two persons of color. Adams watched and learned as her boss parried one condescending question after another. Adams said she felt a weight lifted off her shoulders and sat “a little straighter” in her chair.
“At the time, getting into politics was a dog fight for women,” Adams said in the interview. “But Melissa was kind, fearless, and loyal. I felt honored to work for a powerful woman of color who inspired me to achieve my goals and believe in my abilities, regardless of the color of my skin.”
Adams grew up with five siblings in public housing projects in Washington Heights. Her father never graduated from high school and her mother bore her first child at age 17. She attended Babson College in Washington, D.C., on a full-tuition scholarship. She graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and took a corporate job. She was restless and found her calling – politics – after hearing a speech by then-Senator Barack Obama.
She went to work for the Association of Communication Organization for Reform Now, which advocated for low-income families on social issues such as housing or mental health. Later, she joined the Partnership for New York City. Kathryn Wylde, the group’s chief executive officer, encouraged Adams to form her consulting company and made a pledge that she would become her first client.
In 2018, Adams founded Adams Advisors LLC, her political consulting and community development firm. Despite her status as an insider, she is fully aware of the constraints and obstacles she faces in working for the causes she is engaged to advance.
“You are always limited by legislative calendars, city regulations, and those who truly hold all the power,” she said.