TITLE: SVP of Federal Government Affairs, Comcast Corp.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Maxfield was a top political staffer for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota; worked on Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey’s 1992 presidential campaign and his 1994 Senate re-election campaign; and worked at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
QUOTE: “To me, there’s no city that has the heart and the soul that New Orleans does. If I don’t go back, I get an itch, like I’m missing something.”
Melissa Maxfield relished the excitement and fast pace of politics, including her stints working on Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey’s presidential campaign and as a top staffer for Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).
“I guess I just got the bug,” she said. “I liked the action, the interaction, with people.”
But by 2003, she was looking to parlay her skills on the Hill to another career, as a lobbyist. And the telecom-media-entertainment space piqued her interest. So she joined Comcast where, after a series of promotions, she now holds the post of senior vice president of federal government affairs.
“I liked the telecom industry because it wasn’t partisan one way or the other,” the New Orleans native said. “It seemed to be an evolving industry and one that was going to be growing.”
‘AN OUTSTANDING LEADER’
Maxfield handles legislative issues for Comcast with Congress and the Obama administration, and is responsible for all of the company’s Washington political activities.
“Melissa is an industry leader in the federal government-affairs space, helping to champion critical industry positions,” Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said. “She has been central in leading our federal government-affairs team for most of the past decade. She is an outstanding leader and advocate.”
When Maxfield joined Comcast’s team in the capital, she said there were only about a half dozen staffers there. She, along with Kathryn Zachem, senior vice president of regulatory and state legislative affairs, built that team to nearly 60 people.
During her decade-plus Comcast tenure, Maxfield has helped formulate strategies to win support for the media giant’s transactions, including major acquisitions such as NBCUniversal.
“It was an exciting and transformative move for the company to be making, obviously,” Maxfield said. “And it was exciting to be part of the inner circle of that, of the planning — before we announced — and then to be one of the people here in Washington that was responsible for leading the transaction for approval as far as the Hill and the administration were concerned.”
She described work on the deal as all-consuming.
“For my responsibility, I had four Congressional hearings in 30 days,” she said. “There was a lot more time between the hearings on Time Warner [Cable] than there were during NBCUniversal.”
Maxfield is also shepherding Comcast’s proposed $67 billion merger with Time Warner Cable in Washington on the government- affairs side, working hand in glove with Lynn Charytan, the company’s senior vice president of legal regulatory affairs and senior deputy general counsel (and 2015 Wonder Women classmate).
“I certainly have a lot of respect for her,” Charytan said. “It’s a nice mutual admiration society going on in our office.”
Maxfield grew up in the Big Easy, the daughter of a physician and a one-time CIA employee. The family relocated to Tampa, Fla., when she was about to start high school. Maxfield made the transition, which she credits to her skill at forging relationships, an asset to this day.
“My parents would probably say that I could walk into a room even as a child and be able to talk to people and not be intimidated or shy,” she said. “Maybe it comes from the fact that I went to summer camp, where I had friends from all over the South, who I kept in touch with or reconnected with even in my adult years.”
The political interests and connections of Maxfield’s parents led her to that arena. She kicked off her career doing political work in 1990 when she worked on now-Sen. Bill Nelson’s Florida gubernatorial campaign.
Maxfield then worked on Kerrey’s 1992 presidential campaign, his 1994 Senate re-election campaign and at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) during his chairmanship from 1995 to 1996. “I liked him because he was a maverick,” Maxfield said. “He was independent … I’d never been to Nebraska when I went to work for Kerrey.”
Before coming to Comcast, Maxfield served as top political staffer for Senate Majority Leader Daschle, working on his reelection campaign.
“She’s a force of nature,” Daschle said. “She has this capacity to make you enjoy working. I never was wild about making a lot of fundraising calls, but she made it fun. Sometimes she’d make it a contest, and sometimes we’d just joke about the calls — not in any deprecating way; we’d just have fun with it. And she was able to do that.”
MADE CABLE CONTACTS
During her career on the Hill, Maxfield met executives from various industries and trade groups, including the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
Comcast was looking to expand its government-affairs office, and Maxfield said then-National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Robert Sachs was one of the people who thought it was a job she might be interested in.
“She’s got a network that I think is one of the best in Washington, D.C.,” Daschle said. “Obviously, she’s got so many people on the Republican and Democratic side that think the world of her. And she’s got a professional network, at Comcast and with the industry. Then she’s got a charity network, the network she’s built around charitable activities. And then she’s got a personal network that’s got nothing to do with work or charity or politics.”
Maxfield is a running enthusiast who squeezes in her exercise in the morning before coming to the office. Her schedule is often a 12-hour workday, ending at 9 or 10 p.m. “I attend a lot of political fund-raisers,” she said.
Maxfield said she is close to her parents in Florida, where she maintains a home; her two sisters, one of whom, Melinda Maxfield, is also a Washington lobbyist; and an 8-year-old niece. There are annual family ski trips out West, to places like Colorado and Utah.