Jennifer DeCasper

Chief of Staff, Senator Tim Scott

Fast Facts

Trailblazing Senate staffer

Industry: Congress
Key previous position: Colorado prosecutor
Education: U of Michigan Law 
Notable fact: Worked as Dulles gate agent

NJ50 Profile

DeCasper didn’t ask for the spotlight. The longtime aide to Sen. Tim Scott had finally accepted the South Carolina Republican’s offer to be his chief of staff, four years after she went to work in his new House office. 

But then came the “shitstorm,” in her words, when Washington realized she was the only African-American chief of staff in the Senate. 

“I began, really, becoming the echo chamber for the necessity and the value of diversity. … That was hard,” said DeCasper, a former Colorado prosecutor and Dulles ramp agent. “Now I’m just like a bullhorn for it. I love it.”

The statistics have improved since 2015, but she said she still finds the lack of diversity on the Hill “pathetic.” So she has advised congressional staffers of both parties as well as lobby shops as they look to diversify their offices. 

“Once you meet her, talk with her for a while, you realize that she’s not ‘an African-American chief’; she’s just the best chief on the Hill,” Scott said. “Her experience allows her to have either smaller or nonexistent blinders on, seeing people where they are and, frankly, recognizing potential within people.”

DeCasper’s work has paid off on the legislative front, too, as she has helped her boss include “opportunity zones” in the 2017 overhaul of the tax code to reward investors who finance projects in low-income census tracts.

But her time on Capitol Hill is limited. “I am not a lifetime chief,” she said, and “I would be the worst lobbyist in the world.” Running for office is also off the table. After Scott leaves (he’s promised that 2022 would be his last reelection campaign), she’s entertaining the idea of continuing to work on poverty and economic development. Once her 12-year-old grows up, she said, she’s “dying to” fulfill a different plan.

“I told her, when she graduates, I’m moving to the South, Florida, and I’m going to be a bartender,” DeCasper said. “And I’m going to wear jorts every day for the rest of my life.”
Zach C. Cohen