August 17, 2011: The "politics bug" bit Elisabeth Smith, Bronxville native and currently communications director for the Democratic Governors Association, during the 1992 presidential primaries. "I was all of nine years old and I remember following that primary pretty closely," Smith said. "I was walking down the street with my mother [Adrienne Smith] in New York City and we ran into Jerry Brown. He was running against Bill Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination and I recognized him."
Smith, a 2001 graduate of Bronxville High School and a 2005 graduate of Dartmouth College, has built a career on her passion for politics. At Dartmouth she served as president of the Young Democrats and formed a student group to support John Edwards's bid for the presidential nomination. "One of the reasons I chose Dartmouth was to be in New Hampshire for the first primary in the nation," Smith said. "College students get to spend one-on-one and small-group time very early in the process with any candidate who's running for president."
Smith brings experience from working on nine political campaigns to the Democratic Governors Association. In 2006 she served as press secretary for Senator Claire McCaskill (D. Missouri). During the 2009 and 2010 election cycles Smith worked on the gubernatorial campaigns for Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, Jon Corzine in New Jersey, and Ted Strickland in Ohio.
The effective message Smith developed as Strickland's campaign communications director helped the campaign win recognition from the Washington Post and Politico.com as one of the top campaigns of 2010. She has also worked on campaigns in Kentucky and Illinois.
Two factors keep Smith engaged in the political life. "Politics is something I care very deeply about," Smith said. "I've always believed in the principles of the Democratic Party. I don't think you could be in this line of work without caring about the issues you're fighting for."
On the other end of the spectrum, Smith explained that she loves her work and has fun doing it. "I get to go to work every day with a smile on my face," she said. "I see the passion and the fun as being intertwined. When I go to bed at night I think I've helped make the world a better place. And I get paid to do this for a living."
Smith's dedication and work recently won recognition from the website Politico.com as one of the top tweeters to watch. Twitter, a social networking and microblogging service, allows anyone to send and read instant messages or "tweets" of up to 140 characters.
"I think Twitter has been a fascinating development in politics," Smith stated. "If you work in political communications, the model of what an effective press person uses is always shifting." Before Twitter, she explained, public events, phone calls, press releases, and faxes drove news and communications in politics. A time lag existed between when an event occurred and when it was reported. With Twitter, news can be broken almost as it happens, and that news can spread virally across the country within minutes.
Smith feels Twitter has helped break down the traditional walls of communication. "Instead of opponents communicating with each other via quotes in a news story, which is rather impersonal, they can spar with each other in real time on Twitter," she said. She cited Twitter as a great equalizer. "You'll see politicians or public officials with tens of thousands of followers communicating with constituents who have only a handful of followers."
Elisabeth Smith describes herself as a person who lives to work rather than as a person who works to live. That drive serves her well since her job involves lots of traveling, long hours, and very little glamour.
She will focus on two gubernatorial elections this fall, in West Virginia and Kentucky. She will travel to both states. "I'll be pretty busy, even before the 2012 madness begins," Smith said. Follow her campaign communications and insights on Twitter.com at @Lis_Smith.
Pictured here: Elisabeth (Lis) Smith with President Barack Obama.