Q&A with Gotham Rising Founder and President Vanessa Simon

To advance WPLN's mission of seeing more women at more decision-making tables, WPLN works with state-based organizations who identify, engage, and train women to run for elected office, obtain political appointments, and become more involved in the political process.

Political operative Vanessa Simon founded Gotham Rising to encourage more women to become more engaged in New York's political process, at every level of government. WPLN recently had the opportunity to chat with Vanessa for a Q&A!

Why did you choose this career path?

I serve as President of Gotham Rising, a premier political training academy; also founder and CEO of America: Left, Right, and Center; and I sit on the Board of Governors at the Women’s National Republican Club. I am a Human Resources Business Partner at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which I always like to say that I’m an HR by profession and a political operative by passion. In my free time, I’m honored to volunteer as a lector at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, NY.

I’m truly passionate about civic engagement and serving the community. My core mission is to drive education around local politics, increase engagement amongst Millennials and Gen Z, and define what it means to be a New York Republican. 

My journey, marked by my experience as a grassroots candidate for New York City Council, has illuminated the often-overlooked realm of local politics, fueling my determination to bring about change from the ground up. Additionally, being an HR requires a skillset that I’ve been able to apply to my work in politics: Training, development, strategic and succession planning.

After my City Council raise, my “little engine that could” of a race garnered enough attention that I was elected to NYGOP State Secretary. More recently, I was asked to serve as Executive Director of former Congressman Lee Zeldin’s non-profit, Zeldin Cares, an organization dedicated to empowering underserved communities, which I feel provides a remarkable opportunity for Conservatives to participate in humanitarian work on a local level. 

Who or what has been your greatest inspiration in shaping the work you do?

It may sound cliché, but my biggest inspiration has been my mother. As a first-generation Haitian American, my upbringing was steeped in a rich tapestry of global news and political discourse thanks to my mother’s background as a journalist in Haiti. From a young age, I was immersed in discussions about world events and politics within our household. My mother always stressed the importance of civic engagement, and once I turned 18, such guidance made me excited to register to vote. From then on, I have prized the significance of civic duty and community engagement, as well as the importance of Republican politics. Such wisdom and insight continues to resonate with me, shaping not only my political affiliations but also my dedication to making a difference in my community.

From then on, as I made my way through politics, getting involved in higher and deeper levels, I’ve been adamant about staying true to my roots and the core values that my mother instilled in me growing up. While I’ve navigated politics and grown and developed as a community activist, my Haitian roots are what have anchored me throughout my journey.

Reflecting on your leadership in New York City, what do you consider to be some of your most significant achievements?

Within New York City I believe my biggest achievement is staying truly in touch with my community. To listen is to lead and also to learn, and I am proud to have stayed connected with the people that politics impacts.

Additionally, it has truly been an honor to have been appointed to the Board of Governors at the Women’s National Republican Club.

In addition, community engagement and women empowerment through my work on the Board of Governors at the WNRC and Gotham Rising. I’ve been involved in several projects over the past few years that focus on infrastructural support for Republican candidates in NY. One of the projects after my City Council race that I’m most proud of is focusing on mentoring younger, more inexperienced candidates through Gotham Rising. I strongly believe in paying it forward by energizing and mobilizing younger generations to take action. 

Could you share some of the major personal challenges you've encountered along your journey?

Reflecting on my journey, one of the most significant personal challenges I’ve faced is knowing how to break down and sustain progress on the increasingly larger and more complicated goals that I’ve laid out for changing the political trajectory of NYC.

But at the end of the day, I’ve always found the journey to be worth it. I firmly believe in the power of pushing boundaries and being a trailblazer as through these challenges we often discover our true potential and unlock meaningful growth, both personally and externally.

Among your other accomplishments, which ones are you particularly proud of?

When reflecting on my accomplishments, there are two aspects that hold particular pride for me.

First, mentoring students and young adults has been a focal point of my career. Being able to witness their growth and the development of their personal and professional paths fills me with immense pride and fulfillment. 

Secondly, staying rooted to my values, especially through my role as a lector at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, holds significant importance to me. Serving as a lector in such a revered institution allows me to contribute to my community while staying grounded in my faith and values. I am deeply proud of the contributions I’ve been able to make in having a positive impact on both individuals and communities and see it as the driving force behind my continued work.

Looking ahead, what are your current ambitions and future plans?

As a proud New Yorker, I intend to strengthen the grassroots presence of the GOP in the State of New York. It is my goal to help streamline communication lines and relationships between the state party, county parties, and the GOP college clubs. I am incredibly invested in community-oriented work and hope to give back to the best of my ability. I believe that by strengthening Republican presence within our state, we can improve the quality of life for New Yorkers across the Board.

Is there anything else you would like to share? Please use this as an opportunity to inspire women across the country! 

It is the women in my life who have helped me grow to where I am today and the women who I have helped grow that continue to inspire me and motivate me to work even harder. Our communities and organizations are truly illuminated by the guidance and leadership of women. From the young women I have mentored to the female colleagues who have made my work experiences so much better, I can only encourage more women to approach leadership positions with excitement and confidence. 

There are undoubtedly unique challenges that conservative women face as they go through getting involved in their communities, expanding their networks, and building up their political careers. As women, it is important to leverage these opportunities to strengthen ourselves as individuals primarily, and then as political operatives. The challenges can be demoralizing at times, but as long as you adhere to your core values and take it day by day, doing what you’re passionate about and knowing that you ARE making a difference, nothing is insurmountable. And now, more than ever, women are needed to help strengthen the Republican Party and our country. If there’s any way I can support another woman’s efforts, my door is always open. 

We are stronger together!