Sharing Ford School lessons across the aisle

April 26, 2012

When Anne Kaiser (MPP/MA '95) presents a bill on the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates, skeptical colleagues rarely catch her off-guard. She prides herself on knowing every question before she gets it—a practice she developed in Richard L. Hall's politics of policymaking class.

"That is really something I learned directly at the Ford School," she said. "You should know your issues so far inside and out that no one should be able to fluster you with a question."

Kaiser, a Democrat who was elected to represent Montgomery County in 2003, has found her analytical skills to be particularly helpful as an elected official.

"I've always believed numbers should drive policy," said Kaiser, who was a policy analyst for the IRS before running for office. "I am aware that politics and values play into it, obviously. But as a strong proponent of numbers, I try to make sure what we do has solid analysis behind it."

She's not alone. Jim Townsend (MPP/MBA '97), a Democrat elected for the first time to the Michigan Legislature in 2010, said he feels less hesitant than many of his colleagues about dissecting proposals.


Jim Townsend & Jon Gauthier

Top: Michigan State Rep. Jim Townsend (MPP/MBA '97) (D-26)
Bottom: Jon Gauthier (MPP '86), a Republican candidate running for U.S. Congress from North Carolina's 9th District

"When it comes to really peeling back what a tax policy might do for the economy, I feel very well equipped to go after those questions and challenge the analysts and advocacy groups to really explain the basis of their argument," said Townsend, who represents the Royal Oak centered 26th House District.

Jon Gauthier (MPP '86) hopes to join Kaiser and Townsend as officeholders from the other side of the aisle. Currently a wealth advisor for Ameriprise Financial, Gauthier is running in a crowded Republican field to succeed retiring U.S. Congresswoman Sue Myrick, who represents North Carolina's Charlotte-area 9th District.

"Part of what we've lost in Washington is a decorum and a civility," Gauthier said, "and that comes with training and analysis, which the Ford School of Public Policy is in a unique position to provide."

Gauthier is now discovering what Kaiser and Townsend already know: nothing quite prepares you for being the candidate.

"Asking people to contribute to your campaign, asking for money, these are things you don't learn to do in public policy school," said Townsend, who was an executive with Ford Motor Company before starting his own job growth consulting firm.

Townsend and Gauthier both credit the late Ned Gramlich for strengthening their skills as fiscal analysts, demonstrating that appreciation for a good professor crosses party lines.

Gauthier, who first utilized his MPP as a budget examiner in the Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, is running to advocate for greater fiscal restraint and for paying down the national debt.

"It is tremendously refreshing to be the person who is stating his own opinion of current affairs and what needs to be done," he said.

"Ultimately, what the Ford School of Public Policy creates are leaders, whether they are policy analysts making recommendations or they are elected officials."

Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2012 State & Hill here.

Open publication