14 months as a staffer
November 21, 2011 2 Comments
Friday, November 18, 2011 marked my last day as a staffer for the Official Opposition of Alberta. In the last 14 months, I have served as the Executive Assistant to the Leader (Dr. David Swann) and the Caucus’ Media Liaison.
As a political junkie early in his career, working as a political staffer was a bit of a dream-come-true. I had been active in provincial and federal politics since I was 17, I was a political science major–specializing in elections, public opinion, and voter behaviour, no less–I had run campaigns, I was a small-l liberal and I was young, ambitious and driven. Though it was a challenging and chaotic line of work, by most accounts, I was pretty good at what I did. During my time in politics, I had the opportunity to become involved in some incredible happenings in provincial politics. On the health care file alone, I assisted with keeping the public inquiry issue front-and-centre, organizing an unprecedented joint opposition news conference, and earning two front page articles.
However, to everything there is a season, and the time eventually came for me to leave my job and to pursue other opportunities. Why I left is a question I’m often asked, and the simplest answer is, “It was simply time to move on.” Besides, I’m of the view that all political staffers are essentially temporary workers–some just have a longer shelf life than others! I read somewhere that the average length of tenure of a political staffer is about two years. That’s not surprising, given that it’s a stressful job. Others might think two years is only a short period of time, but–as anyone who was been seriously involved in politics can attest to–the passage of time in the political world is akin to dog years. That’s not to say that the hustle-and-bustle is always a bad thing. In fact, many political operatives (myself included) love scurrying around energetically. However, the pace and the chaos catching up to a political operative is never a matter of “if” but a matter of “when”.
More than the pursuit of the cause, the love of challenges, and the thrill of victory, what I will remember most of all from my time in politics are the people. I have had to opportunity to work with great individuals inside the Liberal organization, in the press, and even across the aisle. I would be remiss if I didn’t take an opportunity to take a moment and thank these people. To my colleagues in the press, in the Liberal organization, and in the other parties: it has been a pleasure working with you, and I have many fond memories that I will remember in the years to come. I’ve come to consider many of you as friends, and I will be sure to keep in touch in the future.
I am especially thankful to two individuals, who I’ll take a moment to thank personally. First, Brian Leadbetter, my boss, colleague and friend, was the one who brought me into the communications team. Without him, I would have never discovered my love for PR, nor would I have developed the skill set I not have. Second, Dr. David Swann brought me into the organization in the first place, and I am honoured to have had the opportunity to work for him and with him and to be able to call him my friend. Having spent much time with him as his EA, I can attest to what the pundits say–you will never meet a more genuine man in politics.
The last comment I wanted to make is to announce my departure as an active partisan after being a provincial and federal liberal party activist for eight years. That’s not say that my departure is anything significant to the political scene (compared to, for example, today’s floor crossing). However, I’ve had enough questions from other party activists (on all sides) about my future political involvement that I thought I should come out and state that my time as a partisan is done. I’ve never whole-heartedly agreed with any party’s platform, and, since my time in university, I’ve always felt more at home analysing politics than playing politics. I’m a firm believer in not regretting experiences I’ve had, and I certainly don’t regret my time as a party activist. Like my decision to leave my job, this is just simply the right time to shift gears.
Having studied it and having spent a good portion of my life practicing it, I will always be connected with politics in some capacity. Though I’m shifting from being an insider to an observer, my political involvement has been an experience I won’t forget and one that has helped shaped who I am and what I can do today.