I spent several afternoons and evenings studying at the end of Strong Hall’s third floor hallway, right outside the Political Science Department door. I would often stare at the bulletin board there, with its various grad school program flyers attached to it. My eyes always stopped on the George Washington University piece. The Graduate School of Political Management. The school for professional politics. Four blocks from the White House. For a political nerd who had worked on several state and local campaigns in Missouri, I knew that GW was my next stop.
I was accepted into the program, going to school at night and working on the Hill during the day. GW was an awesome experience, as we got to learn from professors who ran their own consulting and ad firms during the day and taught us the tricks of the trade at night. We had lecturers and guest speakers from all across the political spectrum and I made friends from all over the country. And the world.
After faxing my resume out all over the Hill, I landed a job as an entry-level staff-assistant in the office of a Nevada congressman. This occurred even though I had never been to Nevada before in my life. I was able to learn about and engage with a part of the country that was brand new to me. And I loved it. Long story short, I worked my way up in that office until my boss ran for Governor in 2006. I was heavily involved in that campaign and lived on a Las Vegas floor for the last month of that race. We were successful and I moved my family to Reno to work as the Governor’s new Legislative Director for the State legislative session. And I had never been engaged in the Nevada legislative process in my life. We had a successful session and, a few months later, I had the opportunity to become the Director of Government Relations for The Chamber of Reno, Sparks, and Northern Nevada. And I am still here to this day.
Our chamber of commerce has 2,000 members of all types, sizes, and industries. And it is my job to represent them all to our local councils and commissions, to the State Legislature, and to our federal representatives. It has been, and continues to be a great ride. The best part is that I get to meet business owners from all walks of life and assist them in making it easier to operate, hire more people, and enhance our region’s economic vitality. One of our challenges here is to diversify our economy beyond the gaming and construction industries that have been so critical to our success here. I have really enjoyed being a part of re-branding and re-creating our region. Unlike DC, I can actually see the results of my activities here and it has been very fulfilling.
This job has allowed me to participate in discussions that have statewide ramifications in terms of education, taxes, and other public policy issues. In 2014, most of my time was spent advocating against a statewide ballot initiative that would have devastated our small businesses via a poorly conceived tax plan. We won, but it is now incumbent upon us to institute a tax policy that actually works.
While I used to be terrified to speak in public, I now am asked to speak to Rotary and other groups all of the time about what we do here. I get to be a pundit on television and radio and my Board and membership look to me for insight and advice.
When I left Springfield, I thought I was going to be the next campaign guru like Carville or Rove. I hated the public policy and governing aspect of this field, I just wanted to beat the “other guy” and then move on to the next campaign. I have gone through a metamorphosis of sorts and am now very passionate about getting the policy right and am frustrated as hell about the campaigns and politics. I have been reminded time and again that the main purpose of political parties is to elect more of their folks than the other folks (thanks Dr. Paddock), and not to be bastions of truth, justice, and the American Way. Frankly, I am sick of both of them.
I would urge current students to be passionate, but not strident. To listen a lot more than they talk. To rise above the ideologues, publicity seekers, and those with axes to grind. The profession of politics is a noble one, if far too often ridiculed and demeaned, even by those who practice it. You will go on to do important things and become important people. Your classes are helping you right now to engage in blunt, honest, but respectful discourse with others. The only time you won’t have to compromise is when everyone in the room agrees with you. And I haven’t found that room yet.
While I joke that I have no marketable skills whatsoever, this degree will give you a great foundation to tackle the problems that we face. I greatly enjoyed and appreciated my time at (Southwest) Missouri State University and will forever be grateful for the professors there. Except for Dr. Connor (Who was good-natured enough to post this anyway).