Nell Coogan is new state rep's rep
State representative-elect Tim Madden will name Island attorney Nell Coogan to serve as legislative liaison for Martha's Vineyard, when he takes his seat at the State House on January 7.
"The decision was fairly easy," said Mr. Madden. "I know Nell from the State House, and I know her connections on the Vineyard. She's bright, she's knowledgeable, she's very talented, and she's very well liked."
The liaison position is unique to the Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket legislative district, created when the two islands' legislative seats were eliminated through redistricting. The $32,000 per year job is considered part-time.
Ms. Coogan, a 29-year-old Oak Bluffs resident and Island native, and the daughter of the late, former Tisbury selectman Edmond Coogan, served the past two years as associate counsel for the influential Senate Ways and Means Committee, before returning to Martha's Vineyard this past summer. She currently practices in the Edmond G. Coogan law office in Vineyard Haven that is run by her brother Geoghan and helps out with the family business, The Wharf Pub in Edgartown. After graduating from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, she earned an undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University, and a joint degree in law and public health from George Washington University.
In her work for the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Ms. Coogan said she was immersed in legislation, reviewing legal issues, seeking political compromise, and advising state senators on a wide range of spending measures.
"I loved every minute of it. I know the State House well," said Ms. Coogan. "Growing up here, I'm tuned in to the major issues. Housing is a big issue, the steamship is a constant issue. The environmental issues are constant, and of course the economy, business."
Ms. Coogan said she will spend at least one day each week on Beacon Hill and expects to hold regular office hours for constituents on the Vineyard.
"I'm excited about it. It's kind of like the ideal job for me. I get to promote and work for Martha's Vineyard, and all the people here," said Ms. Coogan. "It's a really great position for Martha's Vineyard since we are so different. Having worked up there, I really had to push for that. It's funny how some of the folks from the mainland say 'it's not that different.' It is."
Both she and Mr. Madden praised the work of Russell Smith, who held the liaison position for the past 12 years. Mr. Smith was hired last spring to serve as interim Dukes County manager, but held on to his liaison job until the county commissioners decided whether to continue his employment in the county manager's position. They did so this week.
"I've worked with Russell a long time, and I think very highly of him. He's been a very strong advocate for Martha's Vineyard," said Mr. Madden, who held a similar position for former Representative Eric Turkington on Nantucket, before winning election in November.
"I think he did a great job. I'll look forward to talking to Russell and see if I can build on what he did," said Ms. Coogan.
Mr. Madden, along with many other newly elected representatives, recently completed a legislative retreat at Amherst College, where much of the conversation turned to the current economic challenges facing state government, including the likelihood of local aid cuts. "I'm very distressed to hear that," he said. "No one wants to make cuts, but if there's no money there, I don't know how else you do it."
Mr. Madden said committee appointments have not yet been made, but he is requesting a seat on the house committees that handle legislation on natural resources, transportation, and tourism.