In Utah House District 49, two graduates of the U’s MPA program are squaring off for a seat in the legislature to represent constituents from Salt Lake County. Although both are campaigning full throttle, they were willing to take a few moments to share how the U has helped them along their political paths and to offer advice for others aspiring to political office.
Robert Spendlove MPA’03 is running for reelection as the district’s rep (he began serving in 2014). He has also taught classes in public policy at the U.
Spendlove says his education was a critical part of his political path—helping him understand the motivation of all the actors in the public process, and providing him the necessary skills to communicate his ideas and persuade others to follow.
“The advice I always give to those at the early stages of their careers is, be willing to make sacrifices to accomplish your objectives,” Spendlove says. “Too many people expect to achieve a high level of success soon after finishing their university studies and starting their careers.”
Spendlove says he sacrificed higher-paying jobs for those with more opportunities to grow. “I was fortunate to work for the last four governors of the state,” says Spendlove, noting the bright and inspirational people he was surrounded by. “My achievements are due in large part to those people and all I was able to learn from them.”
Zach Robinson BA’05 MPA’13,a former firefighter and political intern, decided to run for office after seeing that people in Utah need strong leadership from those who can help them with health care and the aftermath of tragedy.
As an undergraduate, Robinson interned in the Utah House, where he learned about the political process. He said his time at the U—for both his undergraduate and master’s degrees—helped him understand politics and how to organize and legally mount a campaign.
He advises current students to get involved in a campaign while they’re still in school.
“Learning the day-to-day operations of a local election will make you a stronger candidate in the end,” Robinson says. “Also remember, you will not change someone’s political beliefs by running for office. What you can do is show them that you are a candidate who is willing to compromise and collaborate—two skills I learned as a student at the U.”
—Melinda Rogers is a PR/communications manager and writer at the University of Utah.