Author, public affairs professional, small business owner, entrepreneur, volunteer, social responsibility practitioner, scholar, and politician are just a few of the roles Michael Mills ’96 has occupied in the years since graduating from Hobart College. Most recently, he has joined the running for Georgia Secretary of State. Two weeks ago, the Democratic candidate took part in a televised debate and caught up with his former adviser, Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman, who influenced his decision to major in Political Science and ultimately pursue a career in politics.
Deutchman met Mills at Cloudland State Park in Georgia for a county Democratic committee meeting where she was able to see firsthand how he was doing on the campaign trail. “Michael has a sound grasp of the issues facing his constituency and is able to convey his ideas for improvement in a way that resonates with his audience,” notes Deutchman. “I was very much impressed with his obvious passion for the job and his capabilities as a public speaker.”
Mills was pleased to see his former mentor in the audience. “I had the opportunity at HWS to find out what I was really interested in, and I realized how much politics influence our daily lives,” he explains. “The Colleges, through professors like Iva Deutchman, instill in students the importance of civic participation and being engaged in politics. I took these values into the professional world.”
Deutchman was interested to see the number of candidates in the running, as well as the many young people who showed up for Mills’ meeting. “It’s great to see young people picking up a passion for politics,” she says. “It’s important to know what’s going on politically, whether you major in political science or not. If you’re an American, you must vote and make an informed decision, because a world full of uneducated voters is unsafe.”
Civic participation is a key issue for Mills as well. While working on his master’s degree in communications at Georgia State University, he completed a thesis on improving youth voter turnout. Later, he co-created Vote for America-Georgia, a non-profit organization devoted to increasing voter turnout in Atlanta. As an aide to former Georgia Secretary of State Lewis Massey (D-GA) and campaign press secretary for former Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor (D-GA), Mills has counseled numerous organizations about fundraising and influencer outreach. An award-winning public relations professional, he has worked at Atlanta-based Hayslett Sorell and communications21 while representing organizations in the court of public opinion and in the halls of government. And Mills has rich experience as a corporate social responsibility practitioner, having worked on Wal-Mart’s “Save Money, Live Better” efforts and driving policy around clean water issues and the Kyoto Protocol.
Mills currently owns and operates a communications agency, PR1776, which works with corporations, non-profits and individual brands to provide full communications capabilities including traditional PR, corporate social responsibility, public affairs, crisis, design, media training, strategic counsel and community relations. Clients include The Foundation for Educational Success, Communities in Schools of Georgia, The Georgia Mentoring Partnership and Barefoot Mailman Recordings. Many of the skills he uses in his job every day were honed at HWS.
With these skills, it was easy for Mills to make a home for himself in Georgia – despite his Northern upbringing – and invest himself in his new community.
“At the end of the day, the time I put into my community means more than the accent I have,” he says. “Running for Secretary of State is the toughest thing I’ve ever done, but therein lies the reward: to campaign for Georgia and serve my state.” And, as he has said in his campaign, “My Georgia is a place where citizens get the government they want and the government they need to ensure a safe and prosperous future for their families.”
Mills insists that anyone can make a difference in a community, whether he or she is a politician or not. “So often young people think, ‘Well, I have to wait my turn, and bide my time until opportunities arise.’ Don’t wait. Seek out opportunities to get involved in your community. Work hard. Have a vision. Know what you want to accomplish and learn how to get there,” he says.
The Georgia primary will take place on July 20, 2010. For more information on Mills and his campaign, visit http://www.michaelmills2010.com/.