For someone who has spent his entire life in one city, Stefan Friedman has a remarkably broad array of interests and passions. That’s because the city he lived in was New York.
The proud “born, bred, and raised” New Yorker is an admitted sports nut but enjoys chewing the fat about American migratory tendencies, urban development in the Southwest, and Detroit’s recent bankruptcy, which he calls “nothing short of terrifying.”
So perhaps it’s a natural move that after 38 years of New York living, Friedman, who has been working in the world of political consulting for SKDKnickerbocker since 2006, decided to pack up and relocate to Los Angeles. He began a new gig there last week as a managing director at Mercury, a national public strategies firm, where he hopes his work will be as eclectic as his interests.
“The ability to do a little bit of everything was a big draw.” Friedman said. “The variety of clientele is what keeps me on my toes and keeps me focused.”
Though Friedman, whose clients include former CNN anchor Campbell Brown and Thor Equities, says his move is a lifestyle and personal decision — he speaks fondly of the West Coast’s more relaxed culture, and his wife, Amy, has family ties in California — the chance to tread into unfamiliar territory sweetened the pot. During his interview with National Journal Daily, he spoke of a restless ambition already stirring to dive into consulting projects for the technology and entertainment industries.
“There are a lot of good publicists in this town, no doubt about it,” Friedman said. But “there is a need for good strategy, good strategic advice, macro-thinking.”
Friedman began his career in media as a copyboy at the New York Post when he was just 19 after dropping out of college. He quickly worked his way up the ranks in an eight-year career that included writing his own political column and traveling with John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, an experience he said “was about as good a life as I could imagine.”
Friedman, who identifies as a “pro-business” Democrat and whose father-in-law, Dan Glickman, served as Agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration, switched to what he cheekily called “the dark side” of public relations when he began working for political strategies firm SKDKnickerbocker. His notable campaigns include work for New Yorkers United for Marriage to legalize gay marriage, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA political action committee pushing for tighter gun control nationally, and a successful three-month media blitz advocating raising the cap on charter schools in the state.
“The campaign to legalize marriage in New York is something I’ll be proud of until the day I’m gone,” said Friedman, who knows New York’s political dogfights will continue without him around. But he plans to be flying back to his old stomping grounds about once a month and will stay in tune with the issues there, adding, “I am bicoastal in every sense of the word.”
Friedman is enjoying the good weather and vibes of California living with his wife and two small children, Lucy and Leo. And though he is eager to try his hand at new projects, his political passions undoubtedly flew west with him.
“I hope to always work in policy and politics,” he said. “I think for me, just doing public affairs for six or seven years, I was eager to branch out from there.”¦ You get to a point where you turn the corner and there’s something really familiar and comforting about that, but there’s also the sense that you only live once.”