Kiera Hall is not the typical political operative. But based on her recent success and her determination to continue it, the Schar School Master’s in Public Administration student clearly means business.
Hall, 29, is the founding executive director of Commonwealth Forward, a nimble and narrowly focused political action committee (PAC) devoted to fighting “the corrosive effects of corporate influence on our domestic process,” according to its mission statement, and supporting progressive campaigns throughout Virginia. Those would-be civic leaders include many who are marginalized by the traditional institutions that recruit and support candidates.
In the last year, Hall has raised more than $1.6 million for the cause.
While busy trying to raise donations and helping candidates all over Virginia win elections, she is also pursuing her master’s degree in public administration, which teaches the skills and insights the executive director of a PAC will need.
“Yes, I said to myself, this degree is just right for me. Folks in public administration want the world to be a better place, and that is the place for me,” she said.
Hall has been putting her focus not on the “big guys” of politics, she said, but on young candidates who want to run on the local level, who stand up to corruption and fight for racial, environmental, and economic justice.
”Money is a barrier to entry in politics,” she said. “Local elections can be more expensive than senate elections. It is a very broken system. It can cost more than $1 million to run for local elections.”
Fundraising is not an easy job, but Hall is committed to become a big player in the world of “smaller” local candidates whose offices are no less important than the high-profile seats of power. She also knows very well her weak points and knows how to mend them: With knowledge, which is what brought her to the Schar School.
The Schar School’s highly ranked MPA program, she said, is teaching her “how to manage people, how to be a better leader, how to do accounting for an NGO [nongovernment organization], how to run a board of directors.”
In one of her classes, she literally took the budget proposal of the professor and applied it to her organization. It worked like a charm, she reported.
Hall seems to have found her niche and her appetite for knowledge satiated at Schar School. “The best professors are there and within reach,” she said, and when she needs to learn more, “I will come back.”