Despite the surprises inherent in a presidential election, campaign events typically follow a predictable script. The candidate arrives at a rally packed with supporters, delivers a stump speech to much applause, then hurries on to the next city or town. If it all looks seamless, that’s because someone like DJ Sigworth, CCAS BA ’13, is doing his job. DJ is the National Advance Site Lead for Hillary for America, the official campaign of presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In his role, DJ is part of a team responsible for ensuring that campaign events go off without a hitch. He serves as liaison to many campaign divisions, all of which are vying for the candidate’s attention. “We work closely with communications, digital, fundraising, field, and political [divisions], to name a few,” he says. “We also work directly with the United States Secret Service to keep our guests—and the candidate—safe.”
DJ describes a typical scenario: “We travel to a location such as Cleveland, Ohio, to do a public messaging event based on the economy and manufacturing. We then work with our local staff and/or local politicians to determine a variety of locations that could help to complement the message. In this scenario, we would likely be looking for a manufacturing space or a business location that may have incorporated policies that are in line with Secretary Clinton’s philosophy. We visit MANY of these locations to see what may be logistically possible, and safe.”
Once a location is selected, DJ and the advance team work with local field and digital staff to invite supporters to the event and build out the event site so it can accommodate a crowd. And despite the moniker “advance team,” support for Clinton is maintained throughout the entire event. “After her motorcade rolls away, we hop on to the next city and get started again,” he says.
DJ credits his time at GW with honing his logistics management skills. For two years he worked for Colonial Inauguration (CI), GW’s orientation program, as part of a team managing behind-the-scenes programming details that helped incoming students prepare for life on campus. “A lot of the skills I learned from CI I use every day when putting on large rallies or similar events for the campaign,” he says. “Now I just have a slightly smaller time frame and a little more media attention on my events.”
Networking with alumni of his GW fraternity also helped DJ’s career. A fraternity brother helped him land his first campaign job, which was working on President Obama’s reelection campaign in Ohio in 2012. This led to additional opportunities, including advance work for Vice President Joe Biden, working on a Texas gubernatorial campaign, and a position on Secretary of Labor Tom Perez’ staff, the job he held just prior to joining Hillary for America. “I’m not sure I ever specifically envisioned myself doing this job, probably because I didn’t know it existed,” he says. “But it’s a thrilling way to see politics up close, and I have loved the experience.”
Ultimately, DJ says the success of any campaign event is entirely dependent on the candidate’s ability to connect with his or her supporters. “Running for president isn’t easy,” he says. “It’s an honor to work for a woman who cares so much about the direction of our country. She is the most focused, smart, strong person I have ever met.”
DJ recounts one of his more thrilling moments on the trail, a chance to introduce Clinton to his parents while at an event in his hometown of Baltimore. “Secretary Clinton started asking my parents about embarrassing stories from my upbringing, and what I was like when I was younger,” he laughs. “Needless to say, there were some sharp looks to my parents and I hurried the secretary to the stage! Crisis averted.”
DJ says that stories like this, of which there are many, inspire tremendous loyalty to Clinton among the Hillary for America team. “She is a regular person who is living in the moment and creating history every time she speaks,” he says. “I cannot imagine doing anything more important than what I’m doing. I’m just one small part of a larger team, but it’s a privilege to be a part of this historic election and candidacy.”