For many, Leadership Institute training marks the start of a lifelong career advancing conservative principles in politics. So it is for Jim Pfaff, chief of staff for Congressman Tim Huelskamp and LI graduate of the week.
Jim’s political career stretches nearly three decades. He’s been president of grassroots organizations, led winning statewide campaigns, served as a campaign manager and consultant, and even worked as a talk radio host.
“LI has produced an amazing list of graduates like me who have gone on to have a great impact on the national and state levels,” Jim said.
His first Leadership Institute training was in 1984. Jim was an English major and political science minor at Indiana University after graduating high school from The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. It was a “one-week grassroots training,” Jim recalled. In that same year, he interned at LI, and worked with Ralph Reed to start Students for America, a pro-life political action committee.
“My LI training experience in 1984 was a fundamental part of my political career, which includes various statewide campaigns, public policy efforts, a political consulting business for nearly 20 years, and ultimately my coming to Congress this year as a Chief of Staff,” Jim said.
The Leadership Institute is excited to introduce four new staff who come from different backgrounds, but who are all eager to contribute to LI’s mission and growing the conservative movement.
Oliver Darcy is LI’s newest regional field coordinator. Emily Miller, formerly LI’s intern coordinator has now taken the Director of Employment Placement Service position. Trey McKenzie recently joined LI as a donor relations officer, and Karla Bruno is LI’s director of foundation and corporate relations.
A combined total of 40 people spent September 19-23 improving their media skills with two back-to-back communications trainings: the Leadership Institute’s Public Relations School and Broadcast Journalism School.
The Public Relations School was an intensive three-day evening training focused on preparing attendees to handle the media for their causes or campaigns.
Faculty included Blain Rethmeier, senior vice president for Public Affairs for the American Insurance Association (AIA); Scott Hogenson, a senior vice president at Dezenhall Resources; and the Leadership Institute’s own Director of Digital Communications Abigail Alger, to name a few.
Attendees learned valuable tips such as, “Don’t let people talk to the press who haven’t been prepped beforehand” and “unless it’s about security, don’t dictate to the press.”
Other tips included the timing of hosting events, the amount of time people should post on Twitter vs. Facebook, creating ambiance for media events and building relationships.
Lauren Valainis, an intern for Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03), said the Public Relations School was “a great way to learn PR basics, get great advice, and increase my DC network.”
Kelly Fajardo does it all. She is an entrepreneur, businesswoman, community blogger, mother of three, web designer, and now a candidate in New Mexico for county clerk in Valencia County.
Born and raised in New Mexico, Kelly family moved to California with her family for high school. “But it wasn’t too long before we moved back to New Mexico,” Kelly said. "New Mexico is my home!”
Now Kelly is on the ballot for her local elections.
“Running for office was never on the list of the things to do,” Kelly said. “I was helping a friend of mine during his 2010 campaign and several people asked when I was running. My answer was always, ‘Never, I’m a behind-the-scenes person.’”
“I wanted to get involved in politics to make a difference and stand up for my conservative values,” Kelly explained. “The information, training, and skills I learned through LI helped me have the confidence to know that I can run a successful campaign.”
Kelly credits LI training for getting her ready to run. “I don’t think I would have ever taken the step to run if not for LI," she said.
Kelly has attended six LI trainings. She first learned of the Institute in April 2010 when she traveled to the Steven P.J. Wood Building in Arlington, Virginia for the Campaign Manager School. “I attended Leadership Institute training because I wanted to get more involved in politics and had no idea where to start,” Kelly said. “A friend of mine heard about LI and was already planning on attending the week-long Campaign Management School, so I tagged along. It was a life-changing week!”
“When you ask what I learned, I learned EVERYTHING," Kelly explained. "I was so new to politics, still am, and knew nothing. One of the things that stood out to me was that there was never a boring lecture. The speakers were so dynamic, so real, and I absorbed everything they said like a sponge. I left feeling confident that I could really help make a difference back home.”
Kelly went back home to New Mexico and got more involved in politics.
Last week the Leadership Institute broke a record of 79 students who attended LI’s High Dollar Fundraising School. Attendees discovered ways to enhance the causes and candidates of their choice with effective fundraising.
The expert faculty included Todd Meredith, co-owner of Morgan, Meredith & Associates; Tracey Johnson, President and CEO of Credo Strategies; and LI’s own Marci LeBlanc and Steve Sutton from the development department.
Attendees learned how to write grant proposals, distinguish the differences between types of donations, communicate strategically with donors, and establish a high-dollar direct mail program.
"The LI High Dollar fundraising workshop was extremely helpful. After completing the class, I immediately put the skills I learned to use, and have already secured additional funding for my non-profit," said GI Film Festival Executive Director Laura Law-Millett.
The Leadership Institute has a tip-top class of fall interns this year.
Obed Bazikian • Rutgers University • Weehawken, New Jersey • Youth Leadership School
Obed Bazikian graduated from Rutgers University in 2010 with a degree in political science. He was a member of the College Republicans, an assistant in the ESL graduate program, and involved in the Rutgers Telefund. Obed also studied at the Christ For the Nations Institute in Dallas, where he served as a resident assistant. He volunteered on the Chris Christie gubernatorial campaign in New Jersey and interned for World Information Transfer, an NGO for which he served as a representative at many United Nations meetings. Obed has also done international relief work in both India and Mexico.
1. What are your job duties within your department and what projects will you be working on this semester?
My duties as a Youth Leadership School Intern are to call potential school attendees for recruitment, gather and mail event materials, and enter information received from each YLS student into our databases. At the end of the internship, my project will be to organize and facilitate an entire school. This does not mean to teach every class for the school, but I will be responsible for all the planning and logistics for the event.
2. What are you most excited about in this internship?
Being an intern for YLS is both challenging and exciting. I hit the ground running in the department and I had to learn a lot in a short amount of time. With that said, my supervisors are excellent at what they do, and it has been so helpful to learn from their demonstrated skills and experience. The skills I am learning at YLS are sharpening me to become more confident in myself and my God-given abilities. It is this aspect of my job that is exciting for me.
3. What are your future plans?
My future plans are to serve on staff for a public official, work in the executive branch, and run for public office on a federal level. I would also seek to have more experience in International Relations; therefore a position in the state department for a time would be desired.
Read on to meet the other LI interns.
Meet Brian Swensen. He is the political director for the Republican Party of Florida. Brian is this week’s LI Graduate of the Week. He manages the 2012 grassroots and field operation for the state.
“I also am in charge of managing the delegates and guests for Florida's straw poll, Presidency 5, which will be held this week. Prior to that, I was the 2010 Victory Director for Governor Rick Scott. I managed his statewide field operation of 16 offices and more than 200 staff,” Brian said.
Brian is no stranger to LI training. He has attended six: Grassroots Get-Out-The-Vote Workshop in October 2008; Public Speaking Workshop 2 in July 2008; Public Speaking Workshop in July 2008; Campaign Manager School in December 2007; the High Dollar Fundraising School in September of 2007; and the Field Program’s Youth Leadership School in August 2007.
“I had not yet managed a campaign when I took these schools and since then, I have managed three,” Brian said.
“When I got involved in the campaigns I hit the ground running and knew what I was doing in part because of my training from LI,” Brian said. “The schools I got the most out of were the Youth Leadership School and Campaign Manager School. I have been able to utilize many of the diverse topics I have learned from LI and put them to use.”
Congratulations! You received the call from your dream job company, and they want to interview you in a week. After the celebratory victory dance, which is merited, since you probably made the cut from a much larger pool of candidates, it’s time to think about the interview.
On September 17, 1787 the Founding Fathers finished one of the greatest documents in history: The United States Constitution.
The document established roles for the federal government, outlined rights guaranteed to American citizens, and formed a check-and-balance system to rival any other. It was to be a model for the rest of the world.
When leaving Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin was asked what system of government had been created. He responded: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Two-hundred and twenty four years later, we find a nation in turmoil.
Demagoguery, class warfare, military conflicts, and a struggling economy are some of many issues plaguing modern political discourse. No matter how grim our current circumstances may appear, there is one day each year where we should pause and reflect on the history of America.
Tomorrow—Constitution Day—there are a number of opportunities to get engaged.
The Leadership Institute’s Campus Reform is encouraging all conservative student organizations to pass out Constitutions and inform their peers of their rights and liberties. For more information on how to do this, check out their Constitution Day page.
We Read the Constitution, a project of Let Freedom Ring, says you do not need to do anything elaborate—just read the Constitution “in your community, out loud, proud and in public.” By using their interactive map, you can find parties at which Americans will gather to read the Constitution.
The Campaign Management School held last week at the Leadership Institute was four full days and trained 22 students. David Wiesby said, “I am 58-years-old and have attended many schools and training events, but this is the best of the best. It is like going to the NFL from high school.”
Stephen Clouse, president of Stephen Clouse & Associates, and James Davis, an associate with Brunswick Group, were among the expert faculty teaching at the school.
“Before I attended I had no idea how to begin raising money, but I feel more prepared to get started,” said student Erin Ashley.
Attendees learned how to create a campaign plan, target and identify voters, develop a message, pick one of the various fundraising strategies, and quickly and correctly respond to the media.
Armed with this knowledge, graduates of LI’s Campaign Management School go on to run and work on campaigns across the country.