Chief of Staff / Committee Staff Director, Office of Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., Washington, D.C, Age: 31
One of Capitol Hill’s youngest chiefs of staff and committee staff directors, I. Lanier Avant says, “It’s not just who you know, but what they come to know about you that matters.”
Avant is right-hand man for Mississippi Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Notwithstanding his 20-year relationship with Thompson, his mentor, he insists on constantly proving himself. He is chief policy adviser and political designee, oversees six district offices and manages a staff of 70. During the 110th Congress, he spearheaded a robust agenda, including more than 130 congressional hearings on the Department of Homeland Security’s critical operations, which exposed deficiencies, streamlined priorities and created more efficient infrastructures in the department.
Avant played a key role in drafting recent legislation to address national security issues. At Thompson’s direction, he strengthened the committee’s relationships with its constituencies on Capitol Hill and beyond. Challenging work, he concedes, “but it’s the challenges that test your mettle and build your expertise.”
Avant previously served as Thompson’s deputy staff director, legislative director and communications director. Away from Washington, he sits on the North Panola Community Resource Development Corp.’s board of directors, and is a lifetime member of the NAACP and Jackson State University National Alumni Association. The Mississippi native received his juris doctorate from Howard University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Jackson State University.
Quote: “I can.”
Favorite food: Fried catfish
Favorite book/author: The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Favorite sports team: Boston Celtics
What artist would you go on tour with: Michael Jackson
Favorite comedian: Sarah Silverman
SUV or Hybrid: SUV
Number of countries visited: 17
Favorite charity: Salvation Army