Cooper Adds Four Native Tennesseans to Staff

Jan 9, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced today that he will add four native Tennesseans to his D.C. and Nashville offices.

Jimmy Balser will serve as counsel for Rep. Cooper. Prior to joining Congressman Cooper’s office, Balser served as a Dorot Fellow at Alliance for Justice, where he worked on issues related to federal judicial nominations, the Supreme Court, and access to justice. Originally from Nashville, Balser is a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School and Tulane University. After graduating law school, Balser clerked for the Hon. Gilbert S. Merritt on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  Balser replaces Christopher Jerrolds who has joined the New York City Council’s Division of Legal Counsel as an attorney.

Gunnery Sergeant Michael Harmon joins Rep. Cooper’s staff as the 2019 Congressional Defense Fellow. He will advise on matters of military and defense and will assist Rep. Cooper with his role on the House Armed Services Committee. Originally from Decatur, TN, Harmon graduated from the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Intelligence Specialist Career Course as the honor graduate, received a B.S. in Electronics Systems Technology from Southern Illinois University, and earned a master’s degree in Science and Technology Intelligence from the National Intelligence University. He has served in various intelligence roles and was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and with the 101st Airborne Division to Afghanistan. Most recently, Harmon served as the Intelligence Chief for Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 in Kaneohe Bay, HI. Harmon replaces 2018 Congressional Defense Fellow, Major David Bates, who will return to the U.S. Air Force in a congressional budget and appropriations liaison role at the Pentagon.

Cara Sweeney Ince will serve as Rep. Cooper’s communications director. A native Nashvillian, Ince previously served as the president and executive director of the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy and as the Director of Community Relations at Conexión Américas. Ince received her B.S. degree in Human and Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University and her M.A. degree in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies from the George Washington University. Ince replaces Haley Davidson who joined Nashville-based consulting firm, Calvert Street Group, as Chief Operating Officer.

Sylvia Rapoport joins Rep. Cooper’s staff as a fellow to focus on criminal justice reform with veteran staff member, Charlane Oliver. Rapoport comes to Congressman Jim Cooper’s from the Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park where she spent 12 years overseeing programming and fundraising at the Parthenon and Centennial Park including Musicians Corner and Kidsville, and led a $30 million capital campaign to revitalize Centennial Park. Born and raised in Nashville, Rapoport studied art and history at the University of London with graduate work at Brandeis University 

“I am proud to add four more Tennesseans to my staff,” Rep. Cooper said. “They truly understand  Middle Tennessee and the needs of the 5th District.

Rep. Cooper also announced two additional staff changes.

Jazzelynn Hawkins was recently promoted to staff assistant in Rep. Cooper’s D.C. Office. A native Nashvillian, Hawkins graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High School and received her B.A. degree in International Studies and History at Rhodes College. She will supervise the Congressional App Challenge, organize Capitol tours and assume other responsibilities.

Chris Carroll, Rep. Cooper’s press secretary, is the new communications director for Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02). A Chattanooga native and a graduate of East Tennessee State University, Carroll was a political reporter and Washington correspondent for the Chattanooga Times Free Press prior to joining Rep. Cooper’s staff in August 2013.