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What it’s really like working for the Republican National Convention

Betsy Gehring

In November 1992, I snuck out of a hospital room in Alexandria, Virginia, wearing only slippers, a hospital gown and a trench coat. Just two days earlier, I’d had major surgery, and my doctor’s orders were to stay put, watch TV and get some rest. Instead, I slipped out of my room, went to a polling location and voted for George H.W. Bush.

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Suffice it to say, I am fairly passionate about the right to vote. And I don’t just mean having the right; I mean using it — showing up on Election Day, making an informed choice and casting a ballot in favor of specific candidates and their policies.

Our political conventions play a critical role in this process. They provide voters with an unparalleled opportunity to learn about each party’s vision for the future and their presidential nominee. That’s why I have helped plan and present three political conventions with the GOP — Reagan-Bush ’84 in Dallas, Bush-Quayle ’92 in New Orleans and Dole-Kemp ‘96 in Houston. It’s also why late last year I moved to Cleveland and became the director of delegate services for this year’s Republican National Convention, which will take place this summer from July 18 through July 21.

My enthusiasm for participating in the political process flows from an unlikely place: my father’s decision in 1968 to move our family from California to Costa Rica and start a flower export business there.

At eight years old, this plan struck me as an exciting adventure. Now a parent myself, I can hardly imagine the sheer guts it took for my dad to begin a new chapter — professionally and personally — on a mountain in an unfamiliar place with our whole family in tow.

My dad wasn’t discouraged by the challenge, and he made it work. He improved our rustic living conditions by personally installing indoor plumbing and electrical wiring on our farm. He encouraged my siblings and me to make new friends and get to know our neighbors. They were hard-working, good humored, kind and generous. Unfortunately, many of them were also poor; they had limited access to quality healthcare, a good education and employment opportunities.

By the time I moved back to the United States at 16 years old, I had learned to appreciate every blessing that comes with being an American, particularly the ability to chart one’s own path in life. When Ronald Reagan was president, I got involved in politics through a college internship with the National Republican Congressional Committee. Thus began the love of my adult life — politics.

You could say that my path is a reflection of my father’s adventurous and entrepreneurial example. I’ve started over more times than I can count and worked in politics, health care, the non-profit world and volunteered for hospice care. Like many women, I took some time away from my career to raise my two children and to care for my dad before he passed away. I have dealt with and lived through divorce, paid college tuition bills and moved at least a dozen times. Now, I am starting my second act with a new job in a new place. My adult life has been filled with hard times, wonderful moments, setbacks and successes. And I cannot wait for what’s next.

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The Republican National Convention is a very important event, and its delegates play a critical role. They establish the party’s platform, set the party rules for the next four years and officially nominate our candidates for president and vice president. My role as director of delegate services is to make sure that all of the delegates have everything they need, from hotel rooms and event spaces to commemorative badges and transportation briefings. I consider it a tremendous honor to provide our 56 delegations with the tools, information and resources they need to do their important work.

I also feel incredibly fortunate to be starting the next phase of my career in this position with the convention. My job comes with an exhausting set of responsibilities that require what some might consider an unnatural level of multi-tasking on very little sleep. In short, it’s the exact opposite of the standard career advice that people my age usually receive: I’m not slowing down and getting ready to retire; I’m ramping up and making these years count. I am part of a creative, dynamic, and smart team. Many of the people I work with are young and working on their first convention. I’ve loved the opportunity to train and mentor them. But my young colleagues don’t just accept advice and guidance from me; they also challenge and push me to be better and to learn new things.

Every morning, I face a compressed timeline to assemble a giant puzzle with thousands of moving pieces. Everything around me — my daily schedule, our host city of Cleveland, even the GOP — is in a state of change. That’s perfect because I am, too.

At its core, the Republican Party is about liberty. We want to make sure that every American can chart their own course, find a new and exciting opportunity, contribute to our economy, and share in our prosperity. Whether you are a millennial woman looking for her first job or a divorced mother of two looking for a new challenge after 34 years, the GOP’s agenda is all about creating the conditions for your success.

Once again, I find myself at the crossroads of what lies ahead, but that’s the most exciting part of it all. I wouldn’t be where I am without the risks I’ve taken. Not sure what I will be doing after July, but I’m excited for what’s next — taking a risk is well worth the reward.

So, whether you’re looking to invent or re-invent your life, I hope you will tune in to hear our party and our nominee make their case. Then I hope you will show up at the polls in November and cast a ballot for the candidate of your choice.

Unless you just had major surgery because… really… that’s kind of crazy.

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