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Britt named chief of staff for captial region congressman

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WASHINGTON ,D.C. - Clinton B. Britt was in seventh grade when his family moved to Massena, but his enrollment at J.W. Leary Junior High School came too late for him to participate in the biannual trip to the nation’s capital.

Now Mr. Britt lives and works there as chief of staff for Congressman Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam.

“It’s pretty fair to say I never pictured myself living and working there,” Mr. Britt said. “The first time I was ever in D.C. for more than 24 hours was on my first day of work.”

Mr. Britt graduated from Massena High School in 2004 and holds a degree in political science from New York University and a master’s degree in Government from Johns Hopkins.

While he has worked in Mr. Tonko’s congressional office since he was first sworn-in in 2009, Mr. Britt has actually been alongside the congressman since doing an internship in his office back when Mr. Tonko was an assemblyman.

“I’ve been with Mr. Tonko since January of 2007,” he said. “I was his last intern in the Assembly and then I went with him to NYSERDA.”

Mr. Tonko served as the organization’s president/CEO. After a year of working for NYSERDA, Mr. Tonko decided to run for Congress in 2008 and was sworn into office in 2009.

“He’s very consistent, thoughtful and academic in his approach,” Mr. Britt said, adding that while Mr. Tonko represents that 20th Congressional District in the New York’s capital region he is no stranger to the north country. Mr. Tonko holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Clarkson.

“He approaches problems in D.C. like an engineer, which is very different from many others,” he said.

When asked what it’s like to work for a congressman, Mr. Britt responded, “It’s fantastic. It’s a wonderful opportunity to work for an office holder that is well respected.”

While Mr. Britt now finds himself working in the nation’s capital, when he first went to college he said he was planning to be a math major.

“I went to college and wanted to be a math major,” he said, but after taking a course on “game theory,” his life would never be the same again.

“That course ended up being about politics and I fell in love,” he said. “I’ve been incredibly blessed with my life to get to go to a good public school and grow up in family that was able to keep the lights on and put food on the table. I see it as my duty to help ensure others can do the same.”

And helping other people is what he said Mr. Tonko is all about.

“Right now a lot of people have a kind of negative view toward D.C. and politics,” he said. “In many respects there is some validity to that, but there are some really good people down here trying to make a difference.”

Mr. Britt added that he’s had to opportunity to meet Congressman Bill Owens, who represents his hometown in Congress.

“It’s funny that I met Congressman Owens in Washington instead of Massena,” he said, adding, “He definitely represents the north country well.”

When asked if he plans on one day running for office, himself, Mr. Britt said the answer to that question, at this time, is no.

“I keep myself pretty busy behind the scenes,” he said.

Mr. Britt is the son of Brenda and Bruce Britt, formerly of Massena. Mr. Britt was the manager of the J.C. Penney store at the St. Lawrence Centre mall for several years, and Mrs. Britt was employed by Key Bank. His parents were active in the community during their time in Massena.

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