When Shuwanza Goff joined the staff of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in 2008, she helped make the U.S. House of Representatives and its operators more diverse.
In January 2019, when she assumed the role of floor director, helping to determine what laws made it to the floor for deliberation, the woman whose parents hail from Georgetown became the first African American woman to do so. And Goff was part of the most diverse House in history.
This week, President-elect Joe Biden named Goff one of two deputy directors of the Office of Legislative Affairs, responsible for advancing Biden's legislative agenda on Capitol Hill. She is joining an administration that includes leaders with a wide variety of backgrounds.
And now his Office of Legislative Affairs will be run by an African American, and by Reema Dodin, a Palestinian-American who has served as floor director for Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin. D-Ill.
“Shuwanza Goff is talented & experienced with strong relationships on both sides of the aisle,” tweeted Rep. Jim Clyburn on Monday. “She managed the @HouseFloor seamlessly & is an excellent choice for WH leg affairs. She may have been born in NY but she will always be a daughter of SC & continues to make us proud.”
Biden has credited South Carolina for injecting life into his floundering primary campaign. He vacations on Kiawah Island often.
Goff, 36, was born in New York City. She showed an interest in politics early, pulling the lever in the voting booth for her mother and father and asking questions about candidates, according to her parents Robert Goff and Hershular Smith-Goff.
Thinking back to his daughter's school days — when he would drop her off at Bank Street School for Children on 112th Street before going to work as a bus driver in Brooklyn, and when his wife would leave her work as a parole officer to retrieve the kids — their success fills him with pride.
"It sort of brings tears to your eyes," he said.
Robert and Hershular knew each other as children. The two families lived next door to each other, at 1904 and 1906 Butts St.
Hershular Smith-Goff went to live in New York City at age 3, after her mother died. When she and Robert were in college, at State University of New York at Old Westbury and Virginia State University, respectively, they began socializing during visits home. They married in 1984, pursued their careers in New York, then relocated to Hanover, Va., in 1995.
The Rev. Dr. Norvel Goff, a presiding elder of the AME Church’s 7th District who served at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in the aftermath of the racially motivated 2015 killings, is Robert Goff’s first cousin.
Hershular's 85-year-old brother-in-law Andrew Rodrigues has been running the Gullah Museum in Georgetown since the death of his wife Vermelle Earline Smith-Rodrigues in 2015. Rodrigues often would visit the Goffs when he drove between Bethlehem, Pa., where he worked for 22 years, and Georgetown. Shuwanza and April left an impression early on.
“They were very nice children, very bright,” he said. “She and her sister (April) both are very, very smart.” April Goff now works for KPMG as corporate event planner.
For 14 years, from 1995 to 2009, the Goffs maintained a "commuter marriage," Hershular Goff said. Her husband would come to Virginia on weekends, and for extended holidays, thanks to his seniority with the New York Transit Authority. During those years, she worked for Richmond's Department of Social Services.
This commitment to service did not go unnoticed by their daughters.
"I think they picked up those habits," Robert Goff said.
Now Shuwanza will apply that commitment to her new job. Her parents are very excited, very happy, they said.
But they're not surprised.