Tom Shepard, President & CEO of Tom Shepard & Associates and 2019 Campaign Excellence Winner (Ballot Measure Campaign of the Year) for his team’s work on The Battle for Mission Valley: YES on Measure G / NO on Measure E , sat down with AAPC for an exclusive interview. Check it out below!
AAPC: What does being a 2019 AAPC Campaign Excellence Award winner mean to you?
Tom: There were a number of outstanding ballot measure campaigns in 2018, so having the Mission Valley campaign recognized by our peers as the best in the nation is a tremendous honor and testimony to the terrific campaign team, of which we were a part.
AAPC: How did you get your start in politics/campaign industry?
Tom: At the age of 23 I was elected to the Del Mar, CA city council and a year later became mayor of that city. After four years in office, I realized wasn’t cut out to be an elected official, but was infected with the campaign bug.
AAPC: Who are your most significant mentors?
Tom: Major influences were Joe Cerrell, Clint Reilly and George Gorton, among others.
AAPC: What’s the most positive development in political campaigns since you started your career?
Tom: The growth of AAPC and the Association’s efforts to raise our professional ethics and standards.
AAPC: Tell us about something you’re most proud of accomplishing in your professional career.
Tom: In 1998, I ran the campaign to construct a major league ballpark in downtown San Diego – the first time such construction was approved by voters on the first try – which resulted in successful redevelopment of a large part of that city’s downtown. Our campaign was featured in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
AAPC: Voter turnout has trended downward over the past 40 years. Why do you think that is and what could be done about it?
Tom: In many parts of the country, that trend was reversed in 2008 and 2018, so I think that may no longer be the case, but to the extent it is, a lot of it is attributable to states making it easier for citizens to register, resulting in an influx of new, younger voters who haven’t yet developed the habit of voting.
AAPC: What’s one piece of advice you have for consultants today?
Tom: Work to build long-standing relationships of trust with your peers and partners. Campaigns come and go, but those relationships last.
AAPC: Tell us a favorite campaign memory.
Tom: Sitting in a small room at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel in June 1968, watching David Brinkley on NBC television announce that Max Rafferty had upset incumbent Senator Tom Kuchel in the California primary, resulting in the near certainty that the man sitting next to me in that room, Alan Cranston, would become the next U.S. Senator from California.
AAPC: If you have worked in both the political campaign and public affairs fields, tell us how are those two complementary, and how do you avoid conflicts?
Tom: Our firm did both for many years, but we’ve shifted away from public affairs work because some of it creates conflicts between our campaign clients and our corporate clients.
AAPC: If you didn’t do politics, what career path might you have chosen?
Tom: I was pursuing a graduate degree in history when I ran for office and headed down a different path.
AAPC: What’s next for you this year?
Tom: We have a full plate of candidate and ballot measure campaigns in 2020, and I’m looking forward to it.