A Successful Day of Political and Campaign Management Training for Our Fellows

As the Co-Director of the Board of the San Diego Leadership Alliance (SDLA), I take great pride in seeing our organization’s progress and growth over these past few years. Key among that is the ongoing success of SDLA’s benchmark program – our leadership institute, conducted in conjunction with the national non-profit New Leaders Council (NLC). Through the NLC Institute in San Diego, we bring together a diverse group of progressive emerging leaders for an intensive 6-month leadership training program.

The Institute imparts practical skills in the areas of communications, fundraising, political organizing, campaign management and public policy. The goal is to help our Fellows and alumni succeed as leaders and changemakers in our community, in particular, to bring about lasting change toward a more progressive San Diego region.

On May 5, 2012, SDLA hosted one of its final sessions in this year’s NLC Institute. We met at the IBEW Local 569 Training Center, and our topic was Political Management and Organizing. What a terrific day it was!

Gayl Jaaskelainen, a veteran political consultant with experience at every level of political campaigns shared with our Fellows strategies for successfully building and managing a campaign. Gayl emphasized the importance of volunteers as the lifeblood of any campaign, in addition to fundraising, budgeting and having (and sticking to) a campaign plan. Next, Denice Garcia, the Director of Boards & Commissions and Protocol/ Binational Affairs in the Office of Mayor Jerry Sanders, spoke to our Fellows about the appointments process for board and commissions. She also shared some of the work the City is doing on regional planning projects, including in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. Aaron Friberg, a 2010 alum of the NLC Institute in San Diego and an appointee to the City’s Consolidated Plan Advisory Board, spoke about his experience serving on a City board, including the time commitment and skill sets involved.

As part of our Lunch Speaker Series, we were joined by Christine Forrester, a business branding and strategies consultant, who also has been a major fundraiser for countless political candidates and causes. She shared her personal story of how she got involved in politics and her vision for San Diego playing a larger role in the national political scene. Christine also emphasized the importance of cultivating younger networks of donors and of activating people who might not otherwise pay attention to politics, by putting together unique events and opportunities to get involved.

After lunch, our Fellows took a tour of our host facility – the IBEW Local 569 Training Center – guided by Micah Mitrosky, the Local’s Environmental Organizer. In addition to seeing high tech classrooms, we toured the roof-top solar panels, which power IBEW Local 569’s entire Training Center operation and their new electric car charging station. They certainly are a community leader in building green career pathways in San Diego. Micah then served as a panelist, along with Rhiannon Jones the Protective Strategies Director for the DC-based Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, to discuss best practices in volunteer management. Based on years of experience organizing volunteers in issues campaigns, Micah and Rhiannon shared their top “dos and don’ts” for recruiting, engaging, motivating, retaining and promoting volunteers.

I then presented a session focused on key ethical issues in campaigns, with the Fellows working in small groups to discuss hypothetical situations. The Fellows did an excellent job spotting tough issues, brainstorming pros and cons of various options, and identifying further topics of research. The issue of ethics is particularly important for young people becoming involved in campaigns and advocacy, and our Fellows thoroughly discussed this challenging topic.

Finally, we rounded out the day with a dialogue on workforce issues. Evan McLaughlin, the Director for Politics and Legislation for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council shared an introductory training on labor-relations issues, and Jerry Butkiewicz, the Workforce Readiness Manager for Sempra Utilities, shared his experience in recruiting the next generation of workers in the utilities arena.

All in all, it was a terrific day made possible by our generous space hosts, our diverse, talented and dedicated faculty, and, of course, our enthusiastic Fellows.


Johanna S. Schiavoni, is an attorney and partner with Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP. She specializes in complex litigation, with a focus in state and federal court appellate litigation, and strategic counseling in high-stakes trial matters. Johanna also serves as the C-Director of the Board of the San Diego Leadership Alliance and a former chair of the NLC Institute in San Diego.  http://www.jsslegal.com/attorneys.html


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