JMI’s V⁠i⁠ce Pres⁠i⁠den⁠t⁠ of Commun⁠i⁠ca⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ons Named a Top 30 Under 30 R⁠i⁠s⁠i⁠ng S⁠t⁠ar

By: The James Madison Institute / 2014



Meet Valerie Wickboldt – one of the 30 under 30 rising political stars in Florida

By Peter Schorsch on September 25, 2014

Growing up in Orange Park, the daughter of a day-care owner and construction worker, Valerie Wickboldt never dreamed she would be in politics.While studying public relations at Florida State University, Valerie went to work for CoreMessage, helping clients get their message before the public and lawmakers.Now as vice president for communications at the James Madison Institute, Valerie takes the long view, working on the policy level of issues — like pensions, education, health care.But these days when she thinks about those issues, she brings the sensibilities of the mother of a 4-year-old.When School Choice is being debated, Valerie says she looks at it from the point of view of a mom who isn’t happy with the neighborhood public school and wants more options for her son. Affordable options.When parenthood meets politics, a new passion is formed.A passion that can send Valerie into a rant about the importance of women going to college so they can get a good-paying job so they have options for themselves and their kids.So what does she do in her off time? Did she mention she’s the mother of a 4-year-old?“Parenting has taught me to take things day by day,” she says. “You learn to enjoy the moment.”Here is Valerie in her own words:I am 29 years old.I live in Tallahassee but grew up in Orange Park. I graduated from Florida State University. Public Relations Major/Political Philosophy MinorI hope to visit…any destination with great food. Turks and Caicos would be amazing too.I got into politics…because I wanted to have an impact on the decisions made in the state I care about.  In my current position at The James Madison Institute, I’m able to focus more on policy, not politics, and I enjoy this side of the fence better at this time in my life.One principle I always put above politics…is having integrity. My parents used to say, “All you have is your word.” It’s a simplistic way to put it, but it’s true.Person or people who gave me my first shot…Stacey Getz, current partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Taproot Creative and Cory Tilley, president of CoreMessage.I’ve already worked for/on… diverse coalitions, most government agencies, state and national think tanks and nonprofits, a majority of the most influential associations, Florida-based small businesses and Fortune 500 companies throughout my public relations career.When I begin a project or first work on a campaign, I look for…a read on public sentiment. I work mostly on issues campaigns, so it’s imperative I know my baseline before crafting a strategy. President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. He who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or decisions possible or impossible to execute.”  Truth.I’ve been blessed to have these people as my mentors… There are too many people to list. I solicit advice all the time. If you are open to telling me about yourself, I’m eager to learn from your life experiences. Everyone has a story to tell and a lesson to share. From career to family, I cherish the counsel I’ve received from people of all walks of life.The people I most admire in politics are…I try not to put people on pedestals. We’re all human and none of us are perfect. However, I do have admiration for:

Rep. Marti Coley (R-Marianna) – Her story is inspirational and I’m fortunate to hear her tell it at JMI’s Girls State program each year. Through everything, she is always a class act.
Commissioner Adam Putnam – Starting at such a young age, he has been able to achieve so much in his career — a reminder that we should never underestimate what can be accomplished at a young age.
Any elected official who can serve the people of Florida with integrity and compassion.
Floridians who take time to be informed on the issues that affect their lives and get involved when they are able. (It’s not always easy to find time, but it’s important that we try!)

One lesson I’ve already learned is…to be genuine. I’m unapologetic about how important being a mother and wife is to me. I’m also extremely committed to my career and take pride in my work. Balancing my priorities isn’t always easy, but I do it my way. What you see is what you get with me.If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in (which field)…youth service. My passion lies in helping children. I used to volunteer with several youth-serving nonprofits, but once my little one came into my life, I had to take time to concentrate on him.In 10 years, you’ll read about me… enjoying life with my family and taking on the next big challenge of my career.You can connect with me on social media:@ValWickboldt