What are your best memories from Semester in Washington? What parts of the program did you enjoy the most?
"My greatest memories from the SIWP include meeting a great diversity of other students, many of whom did not necessarily share my own political viewpoints, but with whom I nevertheless became good friends. We had many thought provoking conversations and debates. That sort of exposure to other perspectives is definitely a highlight of the program to me. I also would say that the campaign practicum was of great professional value; it opened up my eyes to how applied politics works in a way that traditional classroom instruction could not. Through the practicum I also broadened my understanding of how those who do not share my political perspective approach issues and construct their arguments; I did so by opting to work on the mock campaign of a heavily conservative Republican candidate, even though I am a Democrat."
Where did you intern during SIWP? What was that experience like? How did it help you get where you are today?
"I interned for the American Association of Political Consultants. The experience afforded me the opportunity to personally meet some of the leaders in the campaign consulting field and to learn from them by learning about them. I also had the chance to become much more familiar with vendors, new technologies, and innovative campaign tactics that were just beginning to be developed around that time – in the early 2000s. I went on to utilize those connections and those lessons in my own work as a political consultant."
Please describe your professional history. How has your SIWP experience helped you along the way?
"Prior to my current position I spent a number of years working as an independent political consultant, for Democratic candidates and causes. Most of my work focused on federal, state, and local races in northern New England, primarily in my home state of Massachusetts. The skills I learned through the SIWP program, especially the practicum, directly informed what I provided for my clients – from campaign plans and polling, to voter targeting and contact, and from direct mail to message development. It all derived from what I learned at SIWP."
Please describe your current position. What is a day in your work life like?
"Today I am the Chief of Staff to the Mayor of the city where I grew up: Salem, Massachusetts. It’s a terrific job, with just the right mix of politics and public administration, in a community about which I care deeply and with a boss for whom I have enormous respect. Every day is so different in this position. I have to balance an incredible quantity and diversity of projects and interests, advancing the critical policies and issues that are on the Mayor’s agenda, attending to the needs of our many city departments, addressing constituent matters, writing and issuing press releases and letters, and going to what seems to be an endless line up of meetings. Right now we’re in the middle of preparing our FY2015 budget, we are working to turn around a low performing elementary school, we’re preparing ordinances to reform how we hire our police and fire chiefs, and we’re dealing with a complicated $1 billion power plant project on our waterfront. This is all on top of the routine day-to-day work that has to get finished. Local government is a great way to make a direct and meaningful difference in people’s lives. And it is absolutely never boring."
How has SIWP helped you over the course of your career? Are there lessons you learned in class/the practicum/your internship that you still use?
"I’m out of the politics world for now, but that doesn’t mean I’m not applying many of the lessons I learned both in and out of the classroom at the SIWP. Politics is about more than campaigns and partisanship, and in my current role I’m constantly employing lessons and skills I acquired in SIWP, including crafting persuasive messages, planning strategy, media relations, and more. Most importantly, though, I’m now using on a daily basis the approach to constructively debating contentious issues that I honed through my exposure to all those differing political viewpoints and perspectives of my fellow SIWP classmates, and through the practicum experience."
Anything else interesting? Any words of wisdom for prospective or current students?
"Most SIWP are probably imagining they will stay and work in DC as their career goal. I would just say, as someone working the front lines of local government now, I am discovering it to be far more satisfying. Big issues are exciting, but don’t write off state and local government and politics. There’s no more direct and meaningful way to make a positive impact in people’s lives."