Westchester's Most Influential Women: Nita Lowey

the problem solver
Nita Lowey

Photo by Stefan Radtke

In Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s life, there appears to be a very stong propensity for successful leadership roles: president of her sixth grade class, president of her class at The Bronx High School of Science, president of the PTA—and that’s before her professional career began. The congresswoman, who is serving her 12th term representing Westchester County, says, “Some people see a problem and say, ‘I’m going to do something about it,’ and others see a problem and just move on.” Lowey gets involved.

First elected to the US House of Representatives in 1988, Lowey was the first woman and the first New Yorker to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. At the beginning of her first term, there were just 31 women in Congress; today, there are 95. In 1990, Lowey obtained millions of dollars in federal funding for local cleanup efforts when she passed legislation establishing a special Environmental Protection Agency office for Long Island Sound.

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In an iconic show of dedication, Lowey invited Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie to a congres-sional hearing when the GOP threatened to eliminate PBS in the ’90s; the resulting worldwide publicity is credited with saving the embattled television network. Lowey fought PBS cuts twice, winning both times.

After September 11, 2001, Lowey was appointed to the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, and secured more than $20 billion for recovery efforts. She is also a leading advocate of increased federal investments in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health. She has facilitated the increase of the NIH’s budget for cancer research more than 10 times and received multiple honors for her efforts from the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

As the author of legislation to prevent repeat drunk-driving offenses, she was named Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s (MADD) Legislator of the Year for her commitment to curbing underage drinking. And after hearing from constituents about the difficulty that food-allergic consumers have in discerning the ingredients in packaged and processed foods, Lowey authored the first-ever bill mandating clear, concise food-allergen labeling.

Congressional Quarterly has cited Lowey as one of the 50 Most Effective Members of Congress. “There are some people who feel they have a responsibility beyond themselves,” says Lowey, “and I am one of those people.”

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