Drew Ballesteros interview
Year graduated from CCS: 2011
Family: Son of Beth Smith and Steve Ballesteros, Brother to Emily Ballesteros (CCS c/o 2016)
College – where and major: University of Mobile, B.S. Theology
1) How did you get interested in politics? 2) What drew you into this? 3) Were you always politically active?
1) The earliest I remember being interested in politics was my sophomore year of high school. Mr. Probst would sometimes leave the TV muted and showing the news when we had busy work to complete. I wasn’t the best student to walk through the halls of CCS, so I spent more time reading the subtitles of the TV rather than doing my work.
2) In his classroom, we all witnessed the inauguration of President Obama. I remember feeling so intrigued with the tradition of transitioning power from one administration to another. Although I dreamt about it, I never thought I’d actually get to play a part in presidential politics.
3) During my time at CCS, I made a few attempts to run for an elected position in the student government (SGA), but to no avail. My class kindly appointed me to become the chaplain of the SGA my senior year and I was ecstatic. Fast forward to my junior year of college and all of a sudden, the tables were turned! People were calling me to run for Vice President of the SGA, but knowing how many times I had tried and failed before, I was hesitant. The number of people asking me to run was enough to convince me, so I ran and I won! It was an honor to serve as the VP alongside one of my best friends at the University of Mobile.
What campaigns have you worked on and what have you done in these campaigns?
I’ve worked on Dr. Ben Carson’s presidential campaign, then for a direct mail firm in Florida, and currently in Virginia where I am overseeing some of the ground operation in the upcoming Governor’s election.
I was hired full time onto Carson’s campaign just two weeks after I graduated in May 2015. Dean Parker, the National Finance Chairman at the time and the one who hired me, looked me in the eye at Waffle House one (very) early Tuesday morning and wondered why he should hire a guy with no political experience. With absolute confidence, I told him that if he needed a workhorse, I’d be that workhorse and he wouldn’t find anyone who works as hard as me and has the endurance I have. That led me to become the National Finance Associate for the campaign where I organized low/high dollar fundraisers, created and maintained departmental processes, and provided support to our finance directors nationwide.
At Majority Strategies, the direct mail firm in Florida, I was a project manager that oversaw the accounts of political campaigns all over the country. My clients ranged from city council candidates to nationally recognized organizations directly involved in the 2016 Presidential race. Once that concluded, I moved to Virginia where I currently work for the Republican Governor’s Association and run the ground operation in one of the battleground regions of the state. I’m responsible for winning over swing voters that will ultimately decide the election.
Most interesting story from 2016 campaign
While at a fundraising retreat in Sea Island, GA, I struck up a conversation with Dr. Carson’s wife, Candy Carson. We were all getting ready to celebrate Dr. Carson’s birthday and Mrs. Candy had mentioned that she wanted to get a few people together to sing happy birthday, more specifically, a quartet. I casually mentioned, “Oh I used to sing in a quartet in high school!” and next thing you know, she created the Carson America Singers. There were just four of us and we’d rarely get the chance to rehearse, but there would be days where’d basically be on tour and sing at rallies ranging from Birmingham to Iowa. I’d sometimes have to mold my day-to-day tasks around our travel time, performances, and rehearsals. I doubt we would have taken the music industry by storm if we had stuck together, but we enjoyed great opportunities such as singing on a Christmas album produced by Ricky Skaggs and even being featured in a Bloomberg Politics story on Youtube. I’ll never forget it!
What is difficult about political campaigns? What is good/easy about political campaigns?
I think each person that works on a campaign will tell you the same thing or something similar: it’s the sacrifice of time with family and friends. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve wished I could spend a summer day with my friends on the lake or go get dinner with my family. Towards the end of 2016, I went on a streak of 90-hour work weeks. I’d have to be in the office at 9 a.m. knowing it was rare to go home before midnight. Over time, it takes a toll mentally and physically, but I know this is where the Lord has placed me and he has placed dreams within me, therefore I’ll keep pushing forward.
The good part is making strong friendships with the people you work with. I remember working in Florida and being so discouraged because I wasn’t enjoying the work I was doing. After throwing a pity party for myself, the Lord reminded me that where I was, wasn’t about the work, it was about the people. I transitioned my focus to the people that I was surrounded by each day and I started to see my enjoyment level rise. I was reminded that the people have the eternal value, not the work.
Another aspect is demanding excellence out of yourself day in and day out. The “never quit” mindset developed while campaigning will go such a long way, especially outside of politics.
What are you doing now? Plans for the future – stay in politics or move on?
I am currently working with the Republican Governor’s Association in an effort to elect Ed Gillespie to become the next governor of Virginia. My responsibility is to oversee the ground operation in Loudoun County, VA, which is a huge battleground region that has been slowly turning more into a democratic region instead of a republican region. Not to mention, it is known as the wealthiest county in the country, which makes things a bit more difficult for a number of reasons.
You know, I don’t know what lies ahead and to be honest, I’m not worried about it. My dream is to become a Chief of Staff on Capitol Hill, which could happen sooner or later, especially with 2018 going to be such a big election year. Although, if you saw my test scores on the SAT/ACT, you’d be shocked I would be able to survive four years of college (I think I took the SAT twice and did worse the 2nd time, so let that soak in). When people ask what’s next, I always make it a point to joke and say “well I wasn’t supposed to make it this far, so I’m just playing with house money at this point” which is humorous, but I believe it to be true. I’m just having fun and allowing the Lord to guide me as we go. If He takes care of the birds, He’ll take care of me.
I believe that once it’s time to move on, the Lord will make it clear and take me on the next adventure. I’m an operations guy through and through, so I hope there will be plenty of opportunities when that new chapter comes. I’ve entertained interests in non-profit management and possibly real estate, but those won’t come for a little while.
Do you have aspirations of running for elected office? If so, what office?
I think I’d be interested in running for office one day if the opportunity presented itself and I felt led to pursue it. Running for a local office or even a federal position intrigues me, but who knows. The funny thing is, I could re-read this piece a decade from now and be in a totally different field. I’m sure I’ll get a good laugh and shake my head if that happens.
What issues are you passionate about?
Being the son of a nurse, I’ve been able to hear stories about the ramifications that come from playing with our healthcare system. I’m afraid that the accelerated passing of the Affordable Care Act and now the fight for a rushed “repeal” by the Trump Administration might lead us down a road where each new administration will work to repeal the healthcare system set in place by the administration before it. The political game gets unbelievably dangerous when we start to see healthcare as a republican or democrat issue and neglecting to see it as a tool to preserve life. It all goes back to the desire for power.
How did CCS prepare you for politics and the campaign trail? Was your biblical worldview challenged?
Thirteen years at CCS taught me a lot, but none more important than this: the best leader is typically the one that’s the best servant. Each time I was placed in a position of leadership at CCS, it was because I had already put in the time to do the work nobody else wanted to do. The reason this method worked better at Calvary than any other school is because of its smaller size. The smaller number of students allowed a (sometimes below) average student like me to get noticed. People like Mrs. Bacon, Mrs. Tipton, Mrs. Ahlman and countless others personally helped build confidence in me over the years, and I will never be able to properly show my gratitude. After 13 years of investment by CCS faculty, staff and students, all I’d like to do is know that I am continuously making them proud over the course of my lifetime. They all helped build a solid foundation in me so that when my biblical worldview began to be challenged, it never wavered.
Advice to CCS students and/or recent graduates
Show up. Volunteer to do the work nobody else wants to do. Be the first one to a meeting or rehearsal and the last one to leave. Be an engine that is constantly trying to work a little bit harder to outrun and outlast the competition. Consistency over time creates trust with those you work with, so if you can build trust, you’ll become the automatic “go-to” person and go further than you thought possible.
If you’re passionate about something and it doesn’t get you in trouble (definitely a fine line there), chase after it. Sometimes passions will change; so don’t be afraid to accept when it’s time to go in a different direction. We are passionate creatures that were molded by a passionate Creator. Always remember that those passions given to you by the Lord are meant for a bigger purpose, not just your enjoyment. So whether your passion leads you to the dirt floors of the wilderness or in front of bright lights and cameras, remember that it isn’t and never has been about you. Don’t get so caught up with the King’s work that you forget about the King.
Anything else you would like to share
Thank you for this opportunity to share and thank you to all of the CCS family members for being the cheerleaders I never knew I had.