Ariel Taylor ’11 on working for King County, the importance of internships, and learning to write at Evergreen

Ariel Portrait

Since graduating from Evergreen, alumna Ariel Taylor ’11 has worked in several different political roles. After starting her career as an intern at the Washington State House of Representatives, she is now a legislative policy analyst and the director of communications in the office of King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci.

How would you describe your daily tasks and responsibilities?

I just go with the flow of Councilmember Balducci’s daily life, making sure that she is well-prepared for everything on her schedule. Whether it’s a speaking engagement, talking to a group of students, or whatever sort of event that she may have. I work on talking points, press releases, and photo ops. I also do a lot of transportation work. I work a lot with the executive office and make sure that the council-members’ priorities are known on the executive side and through all the other transit agencies—Sound Transit, Metro Transit, WSDOT—just sort of coordinating all of the policy areas that she is interested in.

What do you like most about what you do?

This is going to sound crazy, but I really enjoy the adrenaline of it. There’s peaks and valleys and I am sort of a stress junkie. I live for the stress, but I also live for this type of environment. There’s a lot of negotiating with members and meeting people halfway. I really like watching all that play out.

How did studying at Evergreen prepare you for the public policy side of your role?

I remember a three-quarter philosophy class I took my first year at Evergreen. Whether it was ancient Greek, modern philosophy, or the philosophy of math, we just learned everything from a holistic standpoint, rather than just subject-by-subject. I think that helps a lot in public policy, because you have to essentially take in all different types of views and see things from a very well-rounded perspective, otherwise public policy doesn’t work.

How about the communications side of it?

Evergreen made me a writer. I wasn’t necessarily a writer when I came into Evergreen. I was probably okay, but Evergreen made me write and think and really fine tune what I needed to put on paper. I had a professor who sat down and worked with us one-on-one like “you used this phrase, what do you actually mean by that? Spell it out. Make me know what you are thinking and what your process is.” That was completely invaluable.

Do you think the learning environment at Evergreen — programs, seminars, group research, etc. — helped prepare you for the work you do now?

Absolutely. Just being able to interact with other students and actually have conversations and not just be in a huge auditorium listening to a lecture. I learned more from other students than I think I did from text materials. I think that helps me in an office environment, especially in politics and public policy because I actually have to talk to people and get them to communicate with each other, so I think Evergreen perfectly prepared me for what I do now.

What’s your advice to current Evergreen students interested in working in politics or public policy?

Get an internship on a campaign, at the legislature like I did, or for council or elected official in Seattle or D.C. That is the key to getting into this. That’s how you build your network base and, if you do a good job, get noticed. Everybody likes to bring people up in this industry.