Alex MacLean: Her journey from politics to the private sector
When Alex MacLean was in high school, she never thought she’d come back to Vermont after college. But after gaining her Master’s Degree in History from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 2005, MacLean decided to return to her home state. Once back in Vermont, MacLean served as Shumlin’s Deputy Chief of Staff, as well as his Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs for several years before stepping down in 2012.
“Being away made me realize how special Vermont is, and by the time I graduated, I knew that Vermont was where I wanted to live, work and raise a family one day,” she said.
Today, at 31, MacLean is taking a break from politics-- she has stepped into the private sector with her own strategic communications company, ASM Strategies, based in her native Peacham, Vermont.
Q: What drove you to work in politics?
A: I love to ski and when I returned to Vermont after college I was frustrated and saddened by the cold rain that had seemed to replace the snow that we used to get during Vermont winters. At that time climate change was still a foreign term to most people and I was motivated by the dangers of climate change as well as the opportunities it presented. I felt that politics was the avenue where I could get the most done and was the best way to enact change.
Q: Why did you resign from your position with the Shumlin administration?
A: I left state government in order to experience the private sector and be a part of the Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative that Bill Stenger and his partner, Ariel Quiros, had recently launched. I grew up in the Kingdom and was frustrated by the number of my peers who wanted to return to Vermont but couldn't because of the lack of economic opportunities. I saw a chance to help change that with the EB-5 Initiative that Bill Stenger was leading. The chance to experience the private sector and be a part of such an exciting economic development project was what led me to step down from my position in the Shumlin Administration.
Q: What drew you to the private sector?
A: I had spent my professional life in state government and wanted to learn about the private sector and experience it first hand.
Q: What inspired you to start ASM Strategies? What are your goals for the company?
A: I started ASM Strategies because it allowed me to work on the Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative and also keep my hands in other public affair projects throughout the state. I enjoy variety in my work and opening my own business and being my own boss has given me the opportunity to work on several different interesting projects.
Q: What’s next? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: I love my job and would like to continue my work in Public Affairs.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love the opportunity I have had to travel the world seeking EB-5 investors. I also love the variety of challenges that my job presents. No two weeks are the same in my job and that diversity keeps me motivated and challenged.
Q: What was the most valuable thing you learned while working for Shumlin?
A: That if you put your head down and work hard enough you can achieve anything you set your mind on.
Q: What was the biggest crisis you have had to handle on the job?
A: I wouldn't characterize this as a crisis but certainly the hardest thing I have had to handle on a job was winning a General Election in seven weeks after narrowly and unexpectedly winning a five way primary race!
Q: What advice would you give to young people wishing to get into politics?
A: I would encourage people to get involved in campaigns. It is incredibly hard work but it provides you with unparalleled networking opportunities and gives you the chance to prove yourself in a way that few other jobs can.
What is your favorite Vermont escape?
Family camp at Echo Lake in East Charleston
Favorite social media site?
Favorite part of job?
Traveling to amazing places around the world
Most inspiring mentor?
Liz Bankowski - Governor Kunin's Campaign Manager and Chief of Staff
Favorite downtime activity?
Running, yoga, skiing in the winter and eating maple creemees in the summer!