Meet the puppeteers: campaign managers

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Behind the handshaking, slogans, and debating of this year’s University Students’ Council presidential election campaign are the largely anonymous groups of volunteers that ensure the survival campaigns and candidates.

At the helm of these student-driven machines are campaign managers, responsible for everything from delegating tasks to organizing a candidate’s schedule. The Gazette explored the often-chaotic experience of managing a campaign " a job beginning long before official campaigning starts.

Campaign manager Sabrina Sdao organized 400 students for Chris Reynolds’ campaign.

Within those 400 students is a core team of individuals helping with specific areas of the campaign, Sdao said.

“Everyone is designated a specific role and I’m responsible for managing that,” she added. “Anything that goes on during the campaign I have to know about.”

Maintaining a continuous flow is important to a campaign manager’s success, said Taliesine Riviere-Anderson, Tom Stevenson’s campaign manager.

“Basically I’m in charge of keeping things flowing like [Stevenson’s] schedule, organizing rez tours, co-ordinating volunteers, de-briefing after debates… balancing schoolwork and the campaign has been quite a trial at times and hopefully profs understand,” Riviere-Anderson said. “Without a team you have nothing. That’s why our team is made up of people who have a strong personality, leadership, and are very flexible.”

Sdao believes taking on a managerial position provides an opportunity to take part in student politics, in which all students should take part in given the chance.

“I feel when students have a chance to, they should take part in student politics,” she said. “I may or may not be here next year but I think it’s important to pass on this torch to someone who is capable.”

The level of commitment required of a campaign manager is the greatest challenge for individuals in the position, said Amy Bi, campaign manager for USC President Fab Dolan’s campaign last year.

“A lot of people perceive the manager position as a heavy role in those two weeks of actual campaigning, but the reality is that organizing the campaign is almost like a full-time, year-long volunteer position,” Bi said.

Ensuring team members’ commitment can also be discouraging for campaign managers, Bi added.

“Just because people sign up doesn’t mean they’re willing to give you [their time],” she said. “School is a priority, especially around this time of year. In past years that’s what I found to be a major obstacle for volunteers.

“At the same time, it’s not something you can really expect of your campaign team because at the end of the day they are volunteering their time... you end up just doing the extra work yourself.”

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