Marcus Sebastian Mason - A Can-Do Kind of Guy
Written by Denise Stewart, BlackAmericaWeb.com Tuesday, 01 February 2011 04:40
There were a couple of words you just didn't hear around the Mason house when Marcus Sabastian Mason was growing up in southern California ' can't do.'
And because his parents refused to accept a can't-do attitude, Mason said he learned early to focus more on what he could do in his personal climb.
"My parents believed in giving me exposure. They wanted me to know what was out there, and always push to do better," Mason told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
That same attitude, coupled with lots of intellect and energy, has propelled the 40-year-old lobbyist/political strategist to some of the highest behind-the-scene posts on Capitol Hill.
At the age of 21, Mason managed his first congressional campaign. Shortly after former California Democrat Walter Tucker III was elected to Cpngress, he tapped Mason to become his chief of staff.
Tucker left his position in 1995, and Mason soon went to work for Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, where he was first legislative director, then chief of staff.
Mason's relationship with Tucker began when they met in the hallway at Compton City Hall. Tucker was a young mayor who had followed his father's footsteps into politics. Mason was a student of politics, interested in learning more about public service.
"He gave me an opportunity to do the job, and he believed in me," Mason said.
That opportunity, taken as a young adult, is an example Mason uses today to share with young people aspiring to enter politics or any other field.
"I tell them to be prepared because you never know what opportunity will come your way," he said. "Once you have an opportunity, you have to work hard and work smart."
Even before Mason entered the world behind politics, he learned valuable lessons on life, he said.
"Much of what I learned early in life, aside from what my parents taught me, came as a result of playing team sports,î" Mason said, "and along the way, I also had some great influence from coaches."
Almost from the time he could walk, Mason played ball. Football was his major game. After a standout high school career, he went to Arizona State University and played defensive back. At the time, Lovie Smith was defensive coordinator.
"It really took a village to raise this child," he said, remembering the role his godfather and Pop Warner coach Abe Carter played in his life, as well as Willie Guillory, one of the coaches at his high school. On The Hill, leaders such as Democratic South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn mentored Mason.
"My parents died when I was 25. So many people stepped in as parental figures for me," he said.
Today, Mason is senior partner with The Madison Group, where he manages the firm's transportation, energy, tax and homeland security portfolio. He also is president of the board for the Washington Government Relations Group, a non-partisan volunteer association founded to enrich the careers and leadership abilities of African-American government relations professionals.
Before joining The Madison Group, Mason spent 15 years, with the National Railroad Passenger Corporation of Amtrak. There, he tackled the big issues in funding increases, high speed rail corridors and developing financial industry support for the company's business goals.
Mason has some unique attributes that bode well for him in the halls of government, said Darlene R. Taylor, former chief of staff for Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat.
"Marcus knows how to build relationships, and he knows how to maintain relationships," said Taylor, who is now a communications and marketing professional. She has known Mason since he went to work in Washington in the early 1990s. "He knows how to work with people."
As chief of staff for Tucker, Mason coordinated efforts between the cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Compton and Carson, as well as the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to secure tax exempt bonding to fund the implementation of the Alameda Corridor Project, the largest rail-public works project of its kind at the time.
In his work with Millender-McDonald, Mason worked closely with those same cities to build a coalition that was successful in securing $400 million in federal loan guarantees for the Alameda Corridor. Mason also worked on other rail transportation initiatives, including the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act.
Mason is also a published author who writes spy thrillers under the pen name Sebastian Cheney. In 2006, he published his first novel, "All the Kings Horses." He's now working on another novel, "Lords of the Apocalypse." He often works on his writing projects late at night or early in the morning.
While he maintains a busy schedule, Mason continues to mentor others.
"Because I have had so many mentors in my life, I know I must do the same," he said. "In order to climb, you must also lift," he said.
He's mentored several young men, including Darlene Taylor's son.
"When he was playing football at Gonzaga High School, Marcus attended the games. He came to watch and he encouraged him," Taylor said.
Today, her son has his own fitness training business and he travels the country speaking about wellness and fitness, she said.
Mason also has his sights on a business future.
"When I was 18, I read Donald Trump's 'Art of the Deal' and said,í I want to do that," Mason said. "I want to acquire businesses and make them better.
Success comes as a result of the moves you make in life, he said. "My daughter, Taelor, is a freshman at Howard. I tell her all of the time, don't play checkers. Play chess. You don't think one move at a time. Think about your next seven moves."
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