2017-03-01 / Local News

Young Cherry Hill resident is a veteran advocate for military personnel

MEET MARSHALL SPEVAK…
By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff

FAMILY: Father Eric, mother Barbara, sister Michelle, fiancé Andrea Katz

AGE: 28

HOMETOWN: Cherry Hill

FAVORITE POLITICAL TV SHOW: “The West Wing”

FAVORITE LIVING POLITICIAN: Joe Biden

FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM: Philadelphia Union

When Marshall Spevak was in fifth grade, he helped his civic-minded father organize Cherry Hill’s first Memorial Day ceremony to honor all who served in the military and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The solemn gathering on the grounds of East High School 18 years ago grew into one of South Jersey’s largest Memorial Day traditions. As for Spevak, the experience of meeting old soldiers and hearing their tales kick-started a lifelong interest in helping veterans and active-duty troops and led him to a career in government and politics.

“I’m young but I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Spevak, who, at 28, is the chief of staff for Atlantic County Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo (D-2).

There is no hyperbole there. After the township took over planning its Memorial Day event two years after the Spevaks got the ball rolling, young Marshall and his father Eric, now a state court judge in Camden, continued organizing events to benefit military causes, including gala events for the Jewish War Veterans Post 126 and, more recently, providing a Thanksgiving Day feast for active-duty military from Joint Base McGuire-Dix- Lakehurst and homeless veterans at the Battleship New Jersey.

His career in politics started early as well. From his father’s close relationship with John Adler, a neighbor, Spevak grew close to the respected Democratic lawmaker who passed away in 2011. While still in high school, he was an intern in Adler’s office and also worked on his mentor’s successful campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. His responsibilities ranged from answering phones to driving Adler to campaign events to writing press releases on the campaign trail.

“Working on his campaign in 2008 for the congressional seat was probably one of best experiences I ever had in my life,” said Spevak. “Every job I ever had sort of sprouted from John.”

He also started a Young Democrats Club at East and, continuing on that path, is the president of the New Jersey Young Democrats. Through his involvement, he met his fiancé Andrea Katz, at a national Democrat Convention in Texas. He and Katz, a lawyer who works for the state majority office in Trenton, will tie the knot in September.

After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in political science, Spevak worked on several political campaigns for South Jersey Democrats before taking a consulting job in Washington, D.C. He moved back to South Jersey in 2014 to work for Mazzeo. While he could picture himself running for office someday, his current job provides him with excellent opportunities to work on causes important to him. Inspired by a news program about caretakers of veterans, he and Mazzeo crafted legislation to help people who devote countless hours caring for wounded veterans.

One of the bills, which would provide tax credits to the caretakers, is waiting for Gov. Chris Christie’s signature. Another bill he helped craft would allow high school nurses to administer Narcan, an antidote that can reverse an opiate overdose, and one would help bring more sober living facilities to the state. Noting that Atlantic County has the highest rate of fatal drug overdose in the state, he said he regularly meets with parent activists who lost children to addiction.

“It’s incredibly sad,” he said. “But it’s inspiring to see so many people channeling their grief to action (combating addiction). It keeps you going.”

Political consultant Jason Springer, who worked with Spevak on numerous campaigns and advocacy efforts, said his friend’s dedication to making a difference in people’s lives is evident in the Thanksgiving feasts for troops.

“The dedication of Marshall and his whole family to the Thanksgiving feast effort inspired me to bring my parents and (wife) Sarah to volunteer together,” said Springer, a Voorhees resident. “It was so moving to give back to our troops and just say ‘thank you.’” 

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