The Everyday Girl Boss: Sam Torrey

With the upcoming election, it’s important to spotlight the hardworking and dedicated women in politics. Voting is such an important and privileged right that we have as Americans citizens. So, my next #GirlBoss is not only the Chief of Staff with the New York State Assembly and on the board of a well-known Not-for-Profit organization, but she also happens to be one of my best friends!

So, meet Sam Torrey! One of the hardest working, dedicated and easy to get along with women in politics and everyday life that I have ever met. While she’s been in her current position as Chief of Staff for almost four years, she’s held a position in politics for almost seven. Additionally, she currently sits as the Vice Chair of Girls on the Run Capital Region, a non-profit organization that serves girls in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.

Name: Sam Torrey
Profession: Chief of Staff, New York State Assembly
Years in Profession: Almost 4!
Instagram: @SamTorrey

Tell me more about YOU, the dedicated and hardworking GirlBoss.
Hi! My name is Sam Torrey – I grew up in Columbia County, Ghent to be exact and went to Chatham High School. I graduated from SUNY Oneonta in 2013, where I studied Communications and Public Affairs (and met Michella!).

I have lived in Albany since 2014, which I have grown to absolutely love – especially since I’ve created my own little life up here, but home, my parents and lifelong friends are just a short car ride away. I love to travel, go out for good food and drinks, go to concerts (RIP large gatherings), do yoga, read/listen to podcasts and just RELAX for fun. My family and friends are my life, and I am a proud cat lady and obsessed with my cat, Marion. Above pretty much everything, I am an aunt to two little kiddos in Asheville, NC who I absolutely adore.

Tell us more about your profession, your involvements, and how you became a Girl Boss.
So, I’m a little bit of an unconventional #GIRLBOSS based on the bad ass ladies you have already featured, but quite literally am a “Girl who is a boss” and proud of it! I started working for the NYS Assembly a month after I graduated from Oneonta in 2013 where I was a Correspondence Coordinator (answering constituent correspondence for the Leader of our conference) and then became a Press Coordinator for a variety of NYS Assembly members from throughout the state. My interest in politics started MUCH earlier than that due to my dad and Uncle’s involvement with state and local politics when I was growing up.

I spent a lot of my younger years throwing candy to people from the back of a convertible for candidates in parades. I left the Assembly briefly in 2016 (shout out Gramercy for pushing me out of my comfort zone and teaching me a lot of public relations and public affairs tactics and skills). In November one of my former bosses reached out to me with an opportunity to meet a newly elected Assemblywoman to interview to be her Chief of Staff. Needless to say we hit it off and I was back at the Capitol in January in my new role.  

What does it mean to you to be a #GIRLBOSS?
There are so many different versions of being a #GIRLBOSS, which is my personal favorite thing about reading all of the stories you have written about these ladies who are absolutely crushing it. Ultimately – determination, patience, confidence and hustle are the words that come to mind when I think about what it means to be a #GIRLBOSS. Over the past four years I have worked with a team of all women and quite frankly, it is awesome (no offense, fellas!) – especially in the political sphere. 

What do you love most about your profession? What do you love the most about being so involved in your community?
Honestly, if you asked me in high school or college if I would go into government/politics I would have said you were crazy. It was 100% never something I had thought about, but when an opportunity to interview with the Assembly presented itself and I could have a job right out of college it was a no brainer. Communications, writing, press, social media, etc. are definitely my strengths, but I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about politics and how state government work along the way (ha!). Ultimately when people ask, “what do you do?” it’s hard to even know where to begin! Our team, including my boss is VERY small so we all do a little bit of everything despite having our specific roles. The day-to-day is literally ALWAYS different.

I am primarily in Albany running our Legislative Office, but sometimes am up in the district at our office in Ballston Spa (which includes several towns in Saratoga County and one in Schenectady). The Legislative year runs from January to June, which means that’s when state representatives are in Albany from all over the state to debate and vote on legislation (which then becomes law), meet with advocacy groups and attend events.

Typically during that time you can see me running all around the Capitol and Office Building with my boss jumping from one thing to the next, otherwise I am taking meetings with all sorts of groups, organizations or constituents who are there to advocate for or against different bills. While having a small team certainly keeps me busy, it has allowed me to dip into ALL sorts of different things and ultimately given me a lot of experience and new skills. What do I love about my profession? Working with some great ladies to try and help solve problems for people in our district, getting to learn SO much about how things work, organizations and people who are doing great things in the Capital Region and truly, working for a hardworking and genuine woman who legitimately loves what she does. 

In a non-professional role, I am currently the Vice Chair of Girls on the Run Capital Region which is a program that serves girls in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. Since first starting in 2013, GOTR has served over 1,300 girls and is still growing! The program is run for two seasons (fall and spring) annually and there are various sites at schools, Y’s and community centers throughout the Capital Region and is run by volunteer coaches weekly for a ten week duration. The overall goal is to focus on the important connection between mind and body.

Throughout the ten weeks the teams follow a curriculum that aims to instill confidence and nurture care and compassion in every girl, all while training to run a 5k at the end of the season! Like all other things, we have had to make some adjustments due to COVID-19, but we’re still going strong and will be hosting a virtual 5k the weekend of November 20-21, which I encourage you to sign up for!! The most important thing to remember is that any girl can be a girl on the run – and hopefully they’ll end up being some #GIRLBOSSES one day too!

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman in politics? Especially with the upcoming election?
Well I’ll say this, it is becoming less unusual for women to be in politics (thank god!) but there is certainly still a long way to go! For example, my boss is only one of four (!!) women in our conference of 40+ members, which is quite alarming. One of her favorite things in her role is to encourage young ladies to start thinking about how they can get involved in their communities and maybe one day join her at the Capitol, and I feel like I have started trying to do the same myself.

For me personally, becoming a Chief of Staff as a 26 year old woman was certainly interesting and there is no doubt I had a lot to learn. I have found and still do find that being a small, blonde female who smiles a lot can be a hurdle in terms of being taken seriously. Since 2016 I have certainly worked on my confidence and command on situations to try and avoid that, but the fact that I have felt the need to “prove my worth/ability” is pretty obnoxious thing to begin with. That certainly is the case for other places of employment too, sometimes in more toxic ways, but I think in a field that is overwhelmingly dominated by men, it can feel a little bit more of an uphill battle.

Throughout my earlier years in the Assembly all of my bosses were men and then upon returning I found that most of the people around me were men as well. Fortunately, I always had bosses that were great mentors who helped me at every turn (and still have as I’ve navigated my current position and life generally) and don’t have any real horror stories to report, but I do think there is room for growth in terms of not looking at a woman in politics, elected or otherwise, as “unicorns”. We are just as good, sometimes better and offer a lot of perspective and experience to the business-as-usual way of politics and government. P.S. is it Election Day yet?

Is there a moment in your career that stands out and validates your career path? 
As I’ve said, my role comes with all sorts of day-to-day tasks and things to check off my “to-do” list, that being said one of my absolute favorite things has been to host various community events to benefit individuals that my boss represents. My absolute favorite has been helping to launch the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative, which we have brought to the 112th Assembly District with some inspiration and assistance of the County Executive in Dutchess County.

The initiative focuses on creating a more inclusive and accepting environment for individuals with disabilities or as we like to say “differently abled.” We have hosted informative forums to help local leaders and stakeholders learn more to help expand our efforts and make changes to their respective roles that promote inclusivity. Two events we have done through our office were hosting a sensory-friendly movie event where lights were up and sound was lowered, and similarly we have started an annual ThinkDIFFERENTLY Day at the Saratoga County Fair which allows individuals to attend the fair ahead of the crowds with the lights off and typical loud fair noises lowered. This work has been incredibly inspiring and opened my eyes to my passion for advocating for those who are differently abled. 

Another fun event that we hosted this past March was a Women of Distinction Ceremony where we recognized several women who were nominated by their friends and loved ones for their work within their community, profession, etc. We received TONS of nominations and it was very difficult to narrow our final recipients, but it was such an awesome celebration of some truly inspiring women. 

What advice would you give to aspiring Girl Bosses?
A few pieces of advice (that I often have to remind myself of) are:

  • Challenge yourself (take the risk!)
  • Believe in yourself (own that confidence!)
  • Be kind to yourself (get that massage or take that nap!)
  • Find what you love and KEEP DOING IT (not everything will be for you, and that’s okay! But once you realize it – move on! Don’t allow yourself to be complacent or fall behind on your goals)
  • Celebrate the small victories (you earned it!)
  • Lift those around you UP (value and nurture your relationships, personally or professionally!)

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