Introducing Prominent Political Alumni to UNC Charlotte Students
On Oct. 16, 49er Democracy Experience kicked off the second annual 49er Democracy Experience event by inviting several prominent UNC Charlotte alumni and Charlotte community members to discuss their experiences in government and public service. The event started with each speaker introducing themselves and sharing a story of their time at UNC Charlotte, followed by general questions from the student moderator, John Waugh, and specific questions from the audience. The attendees included a regional representative for U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, state government officials, as well as individuals working in the private sector.
Jordan Barnes - Senator Thom Tillis
Jordan Barnes, Western Regional Representative for Thom Tillis, worked with the senator throughout his tenure and stressed the importance of non-partisanship in his role. He said that his role is to communicate all of Western North Carolina’s needs to Tillis in D.C., regardless of an individual or group’s political leanings. He also stressed to students the importance of networking with others in order to achieve their goals, “...the biggest thing is don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to network and meet folks that can help you achieve your goals.”
Representative Mary Belk - District 88
Mary Belk, a member of the state’s House of Representative for District 88, graduated from UNC Charlotte with a bachelors in political science in 2006. While at UNC Charlotte she participated in the university's esteemed Model United Nations program where she traveled to China for the coveted Harvard World Model UN competition. Belk is a freshman congresswoman who is running for re-election for her seat in the House. In her time at the General Assembly, she stated that in order to create transformative policies that help all North Carolinians, compromise is a necessity. “You can get stuff done, sometimes it takes some time and compromise, but it can get done.”
Rodney Harris - Deputy County Manager for Cabarrus County
Rodney Harris, the current Deputy County Manager for Cabarrus County, graduated from Charlotte in 2006 with a bachelors in political science and an MPA in 2008. Harris highlighted the importance of starting to gain experiences early in life rather than waiting until after graduation. He spoke on the importance of volunteering and interning and attributed the connections he made in his time at UNC Charlotte as shaping his path in government.
Addison McDowell - Grass Roots Associate at NC League of Municipalities
Addison McDowell, a Grassroots Associate at the NC League of Municipalities, graduated from the university in 2016 with a bachelors in political science and government. During his time at the university, he volunteered and interned with several prominent organizations and individual campaigns including US House member Tedd Bud. McDowell highlighted the importance of volunteering and interning early by stating, “...the person that worked for free and did it already is going to stick out way above the thousand resumes that look the same.”
Representative Jake Johnson - District 113
Jake Johnson, a member of the state’s House of Representative for District 113, graduated from Charlotte in 2016. Like Rep. Belk, Johnson was also part of the university’s Model UN program and travelled to South Korea for the Harvard Model UN conference. Johnson is currently the youngest member of the General Assembly and amongst the youngest legislators in the nation. Johnson stressed the necessity of maintaining good relations with all members of the House and Senate as he believes that bipartisanship is the best way to represent the citizens of the state.
Tracy Montross - Regional Director of Government Affairs for American Airlines
Tracy Montross, the Regional Director of Government Affairs for American Airlines, graduated from UNC Charlotte in 2010 with a masters in public administration. Montross also discussed the importance of maintaining connections with others. She recommended students stay connected with local politicians by following them on their social media accounts as this is the best way to follow up on their daily activities.