From the halls of North Salem HS to the halls of Congress, North Salem's Justin Goodman reflects on where it all began
Late last year, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced on the Senate floor that one of his top aides would soon be departing for a new role in Washington. Justin Goodman had been Schumer’s chief spokesperson and top communications advisor for the better part of a decade, where he was responsible for overseeing a 20-person team and leading the communications strategy for several high-profile pieces of legislation, including the Inflation Reduction Act, the CARES Act, and the American Rescue Plan.
“It’s hard to remember the days Justin wasn’t a part of my team,” Schumer said as he reflected on Goodman’s tenure in “Schumerland.” Goodman’s days with Schumer stretched all the way back to interning for the senator while he was a student at SUNY Geneseo. “I am sure even he had no idea of what kind of roller coaster he was in for,” Schumer said of Goodman.
How could Goodman have known back then where his summer internship would lead him? He was a kid from North Salem’s Peach Lake community who had become interested in politics and wanted to explore it further. During the summer that he completed his unpaid internship for Sen. Schumer, he worked weekends doing catering for Restaurant 121 to make money.
Goodman says that his experience growing up in North Salem helped to prepare him for the high-powered career he went on to have after graduating from North Salem High School in 2006. “Growing up in North Salem and doing lots of sports was really helpful,” he said, noting that participating in team sports helped him to build an appreciation for having a team mentality and gave him the skills to work with others to achieve a shared goal.
Goodman also credited the education he received in North Salem schools. For Goodman, the small school environment, the district's emphasis on writing skills and the O.P.T.I.O.N.S program, which sends high school seniors into the community for for-credit internships, were key.
“I appreciated the small school, where everybody knows the teachers and can have a good relationship with them,” Goodman said. “I had the ability to ask questions and to feel like the teachers had time for me.” And while Goodman may have possessed a natural ability to write, he credited North Salem’s emphasis on writing with helping him succeed in the work he went on to pursue. “I think writing is one of the absolute most important things. Having the ability to write, whether it’s emails or press releases, writing is absolutely key.”
For his senior year O.P.T.I.O.N.S internship, Goodman worked with a White Plains-based lawyer. “I liked that [the program] forced everybody to get out in the real world. North Salem, as close as it is to New York City, is still pretty rural,” he said. “The opportunity to work with people and see firsthand how things go was really big for me.”
As communications director for Sen. Schumer, Goodman was responsible for drafting and shaping clear messaging and persuasive arguments for legislation that would impact both North Salem residents and Americans across the country, including gun safety legislation, two presidential impeachment trials, and, most recently, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The last is an accomplishment Goodman says he is most proud of. “It’s a once-in-a-generation piece of legislation, and the impact it will have on people is immeasurable,” he said. The bill, which passed in 2022, includes tax credits for the purchase of clean vehicles, improves prescription drug coverage and supports small businesses.
The type of work Goodman took on as the right hand to one of the country’s most powerful political figures is, in a word, stressful. “There’s constantly crisis,” Goodman said about working inside the United States Congress. But, he found high pressure situations to be where he thrives. “It felt like it was all really important. That was a really motivating factor for me.”
But by last year, Goodman started to feel that it was time to move on.
“Working for Sen. Schumer was incredibly time consuming,” he shared. “I didn’t want to do anything half baked because the work is all so important,” he said, noting that Sen. Schumer himself “works really, really hard.” After a decade by Schumer’s side and, along with his wife Julia, as a new parent to two children, Goodman started thinking about his next move - one that would allow him to continue to use the skills he had cultivated over the years while still making an impact on public policy.
Last November, strategic communications firm SKDK announced that Goodman would be joining their team as executive vice president. At SKDK, Goodman is responsible for supporting the firm’s corporate, crisis communications, and public affairs clients. Business Insider named Goodman one of the top 25 public relations hires of 2022. Goodman’s new role represents another waypoint in his journey from North Salem to the halls of American power.
“In North Salem the 8th graders take a class trip to Washington, D.C.,” Goodman said, recalling his own 2001 trip with his classmates. “We took a class picture outside the U.S. Capitol building. For the longest time, I had that picture hanging at my desk [in the Capitol]. In that photo, you can see the window to what became my office.”
Goodman’s new role at SKDK keeps him and his family rooted in D.C., but he will always hold a special place in his heart for the community that raised him. “I will always keep my 914 area code because any time you get a call, you have an opportunity to talk about where you’re from,” he said. “It’s always fun to have an opportunity to talk about being from North Salem.”