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Blugold political science grad finds first job, success in local politics

| Alison Wagener

Forget getting your foot in the door. When Amelia Neas graduated from UW-Eau Claire this May, she took her first steps through a door that was wide open.

Even before graduation day, Amelia had already been hired for not just one, but two jobs in local politics.

Last summer and fall, Amelia secured an internship that proved to be pivotal. Her position was with Cooke Strategy, a democratic fundraising consulting firm based in Eau Claire, as a finance assistant. In the spring, her supervisor Rebecca Cooke was asked to serve as the finance director for Howard White’s campaign for the 68th State Assembly seat, a position currently occupied by Kathleen Bernier. But she recommended Amelia for the job instead. Amelia started the position part-time in February.

Then, after the Assembly Democrats Campaign Committee determined White to be a promising candidate, the organization decided to assist him by hiring a manager for his campaign.

Amelia applied for the position and started full-time the Monday after her graduation weekend.

“I guess it’s a little bit crazier than what I would prefer as my first job. But it’s a good crazy,” Amelia said. “It’s always exciting. It’s always something different. There’s never a dull moment, for sure.”

Amelia said that as hard as she tries to plan out her day as campaign manager (a position that has absorbed her previous duties as finance director), when your job includes everything from organizing events to planning finances to coordinating volunteers and voter outreach, it’s rare that everything goes according to schedule.

“So a typical day for me is really just organizing where we’re going to go to meet voters, who’s going to help us, and then at the end of the day we always try and raise some money, which is always the least favorite part of any campaign for probably both the campaign manager and someone running. No one wants to call and ask people for money, but we have to do it,” Amelia said.

“Learn as you grow”

As a world politics major, Amelia’s priority wasn’t always in state and local government. Her focus on global issues made her hesitant to pick sides in local partisan politics.

“I didn’t really want to get involved in state and local politics and I didn’t want to align myself to a certain party,” Amelia said. “I wanted to do global politics and I didn’t want to ostracize anyone based on their beliefs.”

Amelia, a La Crosse native, experienced first-hand the impact of local politics when Governor Walker enacted unprecedented budget cuts to the UW System during her junior year at UW-Eau Claire. That, she said, changed everything.

“Even though politics is disliked by so many people, it’s so necessary and it affects every aspect of our lives. And that really hit home for me when I saw teachers being cut and funding getting cut – my university being mishandled by the state government,” Amelia said. “So when I saw that, that’s what really ignited my passion again for politics and getting involved and getting people elected who I think will do a good job and align with my beliefs and will do a good job for our university.”

That year, she became more involved with UW-Eau Claire’s College Democrats, an organization she said allowed her to have constructive conversations with peers from different disciplines and perspectives.

“Even though we’re all democrats,” Amelia said, “we all have so many different ideas of politics and what that means, so it’s really nice to have discussions with these people… and you can learn from them.”

Although Amelia is now a recent graduate pursuing her passion and making a difference in her community, she’s the first to admit that doesn’t mean she has the rest of her life figured out.

“My biggest thing I’ve learned so far, with just a month on the job, is that it’s okay to not know the rest of your life right after graduation. Especially with my job as a campaign manager, I have a job until the November election. Then if my candidate wins, hopefully I get a job going to Madison with him. But if he loses, then I don’t have a job,” Amelia said.

She said that if she’s lucky enough to move to Madison to work with Howard White in the fall, her position would be a legislative aid, working in public policy issues instead of campaign finance. It’s a different focus, but something she’s excited about nevertheless.

“I’ve never done that before, so it would be a really good opportunity for me to figure out what I like better. Part of me says that maybe I want to do public policy, maybe I want to do campaign finance, and then another part of me thinks maybe I’ll still go to law school – who knows? A lot of it is still up in the air,” Amelia said. “It’s okay to learn as you grow.”