A son of Albany for 42 years, Corey Ellis’ life has been a testament to hard work, community, and getting results.
Corey grew up in Albany’s South End and Arbor Hill neighborhoods. His parents worked at St. Peter’s Hospital, his mother as a housekeeper and his father as a maintenance man. They didn’t have much financially to give Corey, but his mother instilled in him a belief that education would open doors and make just about anything possible.
With the help of dedicated teachers, ministers and librarians, Corey excelled in the classroom and in sports, starring in football, basketball, and baseball. He went to Cathedral Academy, graduated from Bishop Maginn High School and became the first member of his family to graduate from college, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Fordham University.
Corey returned to Albany, as a union community organizer, campaigning to improve the lives of hospital employees. He also served as Commissioner of the Arbor Hill Men’s Softball League, the same league he watched his father and uncles play in when he was younger.
In 2004, Corey entered local politics, working as Political Director for David Soares, helping Soares overcome the odds and win the race for Albany County District Attorney.
The next year, Corey ran his own grassroots campaign for a seat on the Albany Common Council, on the Working Families Party line, defeating a 12-year incumbent. On the Council, Corey was a consistent voice for reform, speaking out for investing in our neighborhoods, fighting crime and blight, and creating a more responsive, transparent city government.
Corey has always believed real change starts in the community. He served on the Community Accountability Board of the District Attorney’s office, helped organize the “Bring it to the Courts” youth basketball program in partnership with the DA’s office, and worked as a volunteer coach in the program. He also sits on the Board of Directors of Albany Community Action Partnership (ACAP) and has participated in Catholic Charities’ mentoring program for young people.
The community has recognized Corey’s contributions with numerous awards, including Metroland Local Hero (2006), Hudson Valley Community College Humanitarian Service Award (2007), Metroland’s Best Public Servant (2008), NAACP Public Service Award (2008) and the Founders Day Award from the Albany City Council PTA (2008).
Corey directed the Trinity Institution’s Family and Neighborhood Resource Center, where he created and managed programs that provide support to the local community.
Corey was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama’s first bid for the presidency. As chair of Albany for Obama, he pounded the pavement here in Albany, as well as in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and was elected as an Obama Delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and celebrated Obama’s historic victory at the Inauguration in Washington.
In 2009, Corey challenged Albany’s Mayor, a then 16-year incumbent, proving himself to be the most formidable opponent Jerry Jennings had faced in recent years, evidenced by the slim margin of 1600 votes he prevailed by. After Corey’s concession speech he made two promises to his supporters: 1) that he would challenge Jennings again in four years, and 2) in the meantime, he would keep using his voice to help improve the lives of Albany residents.
Since that time, Corey launched a community campaign to save the Washington Avenue Albany YMCA, continued to advocate for the creation of Albany’s first public television station, which has since been established, and continued to support and participate in community initiatives to reduce gun violence, address the increasing number of vacant and abandoned buildings, and to improve housing conditions in Albany’s poorest neighborhood.
He currently serves as Vice President of the Capital District Black Chamber of Commerce, which he co-founded to address the socio-economic void that exists for black business owners in the Capital Region. This past election cycle, Corey was elected as a member of the New York State Democratic Committee representing the 108th Assembly District, and the first African-American to do so. Soon after, he was elected Ward leader of Albany’s 11th ward. Again, he is the first African-American to hold that title for any ward above the 5th ward.
Corey has persevered over many obstacles and defied countless odds, always continuing his steadfast commitment to the residents of Albany to improve this city, particularly Albany’s most impoverished and disenfranchised.
In 2009, while endorsing him, a fellow council member summed up the reason why he supported Corey by saying “He’s Right on the issues, he is Right for our Future and that is still true today.