We’re going somewhere

The process ain’t always pretty, but it sure has beauty.

My team, Amelia & Lyric, encouraged me to write a post about the past approximately 18 months of my life. And while that may sound strange, I realized decisions made and life events of the past 18 months have put me on a path I never imagined possible, or even thought I wanted.

18 (well 19 to be exact) months ago, I started my firm CityBright, LLC — a political and public affairs consulting firm. I was still working for Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin at the time as his policy and communications advisor, but I knew I was being called to do something else, something more.

Fast forward to April 2019, and I had just accepted the role of State Director for former Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s campaign. With a sea of Democratic presidential candidates, I’d initially had no interest in working on a campaign that cycle. Working in city government, I had an interest in politics, but my passion for politics was only fully discovered as I took on the role with the Beto for America team.

Going into the Beto opportunity, my goal was to be a leader for our state team that helped build up staffers as human infrastructure (a phrase I stole from my friend and mentor Mayor Benjamin). Recognizing that each person goes into and comes out of every opportunity a different person, whether that person becomes better or worse off is up to leaders who either empower them and cultivate their gifts as an individual or allow them to remain complacent. I knew I wanted to be the former.

I quickly realized that not only did I absolutely love working on a campaign team — being involved in something much bigger than just a presidential campaign but being part of a mission that positively influenced the lives and potential outcomes of the American people — I also truly valued spending time with people across South Carolina. From the Lexington County Peach Festival to Jim Clyburn’s World Famous Fish Fry, South Carolina is a truly beautiful place, and I got to see nearly every nook and cranny of it.

Politics, to me at least, is less about the office itself and much more about the people. Who are you representing? Who is holding you accountable? Who is counting on you to advocate on their behalf? It’s all of those questions that inspire me to not just innovate, create and lead for the candidates, but even more so for the people.

And while I realize politics can be seen as a ~dirty~ industry, I like to remind folks that if we don’t fill the industry and prepare a bench with folks who have good intentions, it will always be dirty. It will stay dirty. And there’s too much on the line to risk that.

When Beto announced he was suspending his campaign in November, I was heartbroken but also truly grateful to have been a part of something so forward-thinking, innovative and influential. Beto for America supporters in South Carolina and nationwide are incredible people with diverse backgrounds. Seeing how so many different people wound up behind the same candidate was intriguing, and I’ll never forget the coalition built for the campaign.

After finishing up on the Beto campaign mid-November, I decided to take what I like to call “sabbatical” to catch up on much-needed rest, spend time with loved ones and figure out what I wanted to do next. During my 6 weeks of time off, I am grateful to have gotten a few job offers, but I knew this next career decision was an important one. And I was finally ready to bet on myself. I knew that if I didn’t take the opportunity to work for myself now, it may not ever come back again. If I was to place this bet (with God’s support), I knew now was the time to do it.

That’s when I began to do CityBright full-time, starting off the year with fun projects and clients like helping plan the First in the South presidential debate with the South Carolina Democratic Party and mobilizing independent voters to participate in the SC primary with The Welcome Party. From there, I was able to hire those two absolutely brilliant team members I mentioned, Amelia and Lyric, and we’ve since then have been working with great clients like Sen. Mia McLeod and Rep. Marvin Pendarvis. We also launched The Blue Lab SC, an incubator for Democratic campaign staffers here in the Palmetto State.

At this point, I know you’ve read (or skimmed) 761 words, but what I really hope you’ll take away from this piece is that there is SO much reward in doing the scary, uncertain, risky thing.

We aren’t going to feel ready. We aren’t going to know everything. But when you’re presented with an opportunity that you know you’re supposed to take, you take it. The phrase “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called” is REAL life.

I recognize people also preach the importance of faith over fear a lot, but it truly doesn’t ever get old or irrelevant. There are levels to it, and those levels deepen the older and more mature you get. And while it may sound like an experience of a lifetime to take a super cool job with a presidential campaign, not knowing how long that campaign will last, how you’ll perform in that role or what will come after it is intimidating and risky. That’s why so many campaign staffers are career campaign staffers aka folks who hop from one campaign to the next from one state to another. There’s not a whole lot of fun in working a job and then having no idea from where or when your next paycheck will come when it’s over. But it’s a risk I have been and continue to be okay with taking as long as I believe it’s where God has me.

Reflection is dope, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to think about where I’ve been and what I’ve done, but what I’m even more excited about is where I’m going.

I hope you’ll stick around to see how it all works out for good.

“…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).”

Lauren Harper, April 2018

CEO of CityBright, LLC. | South Carolinian Politico + Public Servant