STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.– Laura LoBianco Sword learned early that life has a way challenging us.
As an undergrad at SUNY New Paltz, she had to leave her beloved school after three and a half years in order to help her family back home.
When she got back, she got a full-time job and began attending the College of Staten Island, where he obtained her degree in political science. She then started at Brooklyn Law School.
She worked during the day, and attended school at night, eventually earning her J.D. — she was fifth in her class, no less — and became a successful attorney.
You were raised in Staten Island. How do you remember it when you were a child?
I grew up in Willowbrook on a dead-end street. Our backyard neighbors had a horse in their backyard. We would catch garter snakes, climb trees and see an occasional rabbit. We played hopscotch, hide and seek and tag in the street, yelling “car, car, CAR, stick your head in a jelly jar” if you needed to clear the street for the rare vehicle.
How has Staten Island changed?
I think one of the biggest differences today isn’t Staten-Island specific, but more a sign of the times, with the advent of video games and smart phones. Kids don’t play outside the way we did. I think that’s led to less interaction among neighbors, which is negative. But the silver lining is that through technology, we can connect with people in a way that gives us a bigger view of the rest of the world.
Tell us more about your college experiences.
I entered the College of Staten Island as a physiological psychology major, where I had fantastic professors, including the late, great Dan Kramer, who really influenced my life choices.
What is your occupation?
I am an agency attorney/associate director in homeowner services at the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery. Basically, I run the city’s customer service centers for the Build It Back Program.
What was your first job? Where else have you worked?
When I was in high school, I worked at Roald’s Ski Shop on Richmond Road as a sales clerk. I also waitressed for a catering company in New Jersey. I continued waitressing in college at the two different diners in New Paltz. After waitressing, I got my paralegal certificate, and got a job at a law firm, and then at the New York State Liquidation Bureau. I wanted to work in the field before deciding whether or not law school was for me.
You have been involved in politics. How did you get involved?
My neighbor, Marie Smith, knew I had changed my major to political science and asked me to volunteer on Jon Del Giorno’s City Council campaign when I was home from New Paltz for the summer. Once I got a taste of it, I was hooked.
Which elected officials have you worked for/with?
I was [the] Staten Island field director for John Liu’s campaign for mayor, [the] Staten Island field director for Tom Suozzi’s campaign for governor, South Shore field director on Mike McMahon’s congressional race, and campaign manager for Matt Titone’s assembly races. I also served as Matt’s counsel and policy director until 2012, when I took a job with John Liu as Staten Island rep for the Comptroller’s office.
Do you any intention to run for an office?
I’m currently running for state committee for the 61st Assembly District, which is a party position. I want to see more transparency from leadership in the party and an executive committee which more truly reflects the party.
What bothers you most about the world today?
Oh so much … but it predominantly stems from how divided we are as a nation.
How would you fix it?
We need to go back to civility. I am a proud progressive and I wholeheartedly oppose the Trump agenda, including the tax cuts for the wealthy, race-based scare tactics and overall swampiness. We need to fight with everything we can, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to listen to one another and debate respectfully, find common ground and work for compromise solutions where we can. In real terms, we need to end gerrymandering to create truly representative government that will implement policies based on the will of the people.
Who do you admire?
Anyone who turns personal tragedy into activism, whether it is the mom who lost her daughter to domestic violence and fought for changes to the laws, the kids from March for Our Lives or my Aunt Brenda, who passed away earlier this year, but in the early 1990s started a cancer support group in Florida after she survived her own battle with breast and liver cancers. Her ability to turn a negative to a positive helped me tremendously in my own fight against breast cancer.
GET TO KNOW LAURA
Her family: “I married Mike Sword, an attorney television producer and talent manager, in 2002. We have two kids, Devyn, 16, a senior at my alma mater, St. Joseph Hill, and Justin, 14, a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School. I couldn’t be prouder of who they are as passionate, caring and engaged young people and the success they’re enjoying.”
The kinds of books she likes to read: “I read too many political books! I can’t turn away from biographies of political figures or non-fiction accounts of stories of world affairs. I also love the stuff I used to read my kids.”
Her favorite vacation: “Instead of having a big wedding, my mom and stepdad took the whole family on a cruise to the Bahamas when they got married. It wasn’t so much the place. It was having my aunts and uncles and my sisters and my kids all together.”
Her recent projects: “I have been serving on the board of directors of Central Family Life Center (CFLC) and have recently been named chair of the fundraising committee. I’m working on coming up with some new, fun and creative ideas to raise money for this amazing organization. CFLC runs the Cure Violence program, and has had great success in reducing retaliatory violence on the North Shore.”
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