Lisa Rosenblum’s journey to become executive vice president, government and public affairs for Cablevision Systems began at the dinner table when she was growing up.
Rosenblum, the cable company’s chief government-affairs executive and strategist, oversees all legislative, regulatory and public-affairs matters for the company, but she didn’t grow up in a household of lawyers or politicians. Instead, her parents were in the arts and were college professors.
But the outside world — and the tumultuous times of the 1960s — were very present over meals in Rosenblum’s home in the New York City neighborhood of Astoria. “My parents were very engaged in culture and politics, and that got me interested in politics and public service,” Rosenblum said.
Not everything was that intense. Young Lisa was a natural athlete, and her father steered her to tennis.
By her teens, Rosenblum was playing in tournaments and competing against the likes of Chris Evert. But Evert was playing for four or five hours a day (and would reach the U.S. Open semifinals at age 16), and Rosenblum realized that she’d rather put that time into academics.
CHOOSING LEGAL VOLLEYS
Instead of choosing a school in the South or California, where she could pursue a tennis career, Rosenblum headed to Yale University in one of its earliest co-ed classes.
“There weren’t serious barriers for me as a woman at that time,” she recalled. “In fact, there were opportunities.” (She did play No. 1 singles for the tennis team.)
After graduating, Rosenblum proceeded to law school: She had been reading biographies of Supreme Court justices such as Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes, but she also knew “a law degree provided flexibility and opened a lot of avenues, into public-interest work or into government or a law firm.”
She tested every avenue, starting by clerking for Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly, who had been a federal prosecutor under Robert Kennedy and “was influential in using the law to be fair and benefit society.” After that experience, Rosenblum decided she needed training as a lawyer and landed at the prestigious Webster & Sheffield firm in New York.
Several years later, a friend told her that a position in government — as assistant counsel to New York Gov. Hugh Carey — had just come open, but she needed to get on a train to Albany the next day. One partner discouraged her from leaving for the government, but another member of the firm was former New York City Mayor John Lindsay.
“He told me this might be the one chance I get to use my legal background and be engaged in government,” Rosenblum said. “He told me to get on the train.” In the 1980s and 1990s, she moved from one challenge to the next. Under Carey, she was responsible for coordinating the legislative agendas of several organizations, including the New York Power Authority and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. She served as chair of the Cable Telecommunications Association of New York and then, after an appointment by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, she served as fi rst chair and a board member of the Universal Service Administrative Co.
As commissioner and deputy chair of the New York Public Service Commission, she focused on telecommunications and competitive policies, also serving as chair of the Communications Committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, where she represented state commissioners before Congress and the FCC, spearheading the states’ efforts on the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Lee Schroeder, now Cablevision’s senior VP of government and public affairs, first met Rosenblum via conference call 20 years ago when they were on different commissions and were both working on the Telecommunications Act.
“She had this ability to corral commissioners from all 50 states and keep everyone engaged and focused on priorities,” Schroeder said. “ In a very intense situation, Lisa made it fun and made sure to acknowledge people’s contributions.”
Schroeder said both in that job and at Cablevision, Rosenblum has shown a knack for formulating a long-term vision while keeping mindful of the steps and milestones along the way. She then builds a coalition to reach each goal.
“She might work with a public-interest group or another cable operator or a public official,” Schroeder said. “She’s able to see what people need to get out of each situation to buy in. She’s great at creative problem-solving.”
In the late 1990s, those skills caught the attention of Sheila Mahony, then Cablevision’s executive vice president of communications, government and public affairs.
“She was a national figure in the regulatory world,” Mahony said. “ We needed someone who could translate the regulatory language for the telephone business into English — it was all acronyms and codes, but she made it make sense.”
GROOMED TO LEAD
After seeing how Rosenblum was open to challenges and had the right temperament, Mahony groomed Rosenblum to eventually take over her role. “I was very fortunate to have her mentorship,” Rosenblum said, adding that she picked up the nuances necessary for her role in a highly visible company dealing with contentious issues thanks to both Mahony’s guidance and her own experience over time.
For Rosenblum, who had moved from one job to another, she finally felt she had found a stopping point in her journey. “It is never static here.”
Mahony told Rosenblum she could make a difference for the public from outside the government, something she has definitely found to be true.
“I get to take on issues that make a difference in a positive way for a company that is committed to its customers,” Rosenblum said. “I’m fighting to make sure rates go down — there’s a connection here between the corporate and the public interest. That’s why I’m so satisfied here.”
TITLE: Executive Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, Cablevision Systems
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Senior VP, Regulatory and Legal Affairs, Cablevision; Senior VP, Government and Education, Cablevision. Led MSO’s regulatory efforts in telecom, coordinated government relations for Rainbow Media Holdings and Madison Square Garden until they spun off.
QUOTABLE: “As my mentor, Sheila [Mahony] didn’t tell me explicitly what to do, she just guided me to the signposts. Of course, some people run right into the signposts.”