Originally from Brighton, Tenn., David Ray moved to Arkansas to attend University of the Ozarks. After graduating in 2007, Ray's interest in politics took him all over the country. Now, he's returning to the Natural State as communications director for the Republican Party of Arkansas.
A political science and communication major, Ray knew his future lay in politics very early on.
"I got my feet wet in political campaigns while I was at Ozarks. During the summer after my sophomore year, I interned in Sacramento, California, on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign and spent the following summer in Washington, D.C., interning with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC)," Ray explained.
David Ray, a 2007 Ozarks graduate, recently returned to Arkansas to the position of communications director for the Republican Party.
Since graduating, Ray has worked tirelessly for the GOP, first as a member of NRSC research department, then as a field director, and most recently as a campaign manager in Kansas, Kentucky, and New York.
"After graduation, I joined the NRSC full-time in 2008 as a member of the research department working on political races in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia," he said. "In 2009, I was a field director for the Attorney General campaign for Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia."
"Since then, I have been a campaign manager. I managed Congressman Tim Huelskamp’s race in Kansas’ 1st Congressional District in 2010. In 2011, I managed a race for Kentucky Attorney General for Hopkins County Attorney Todd P’Pool. Most recently, I was the campaign manager for Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle in New York’s 24th Congressional District, which is the Syracuse area," he explained.
The move to Arkansas as communications director represents a different sort of challenge for Ray and a definite shift in his career.
"As communications director, my job is basically to manage all the various ways the Republican Party communicates with both the public and the press, including our website, press releases and social media, as well as developing an advertising strategy," Ray explained.
"It’s different, because I’m working for the party and not for an individual candidate. That means our goals are a little bit more long-term, whereas candidates are more focused on whatever election is around the corner. Also, in this position, I can focus on communications, where as a campaign manager, you oversee just about everything; fundraising, messaging, voter contact, polling, advertising, etcetera," he said.
Ray’s success certainly comes as a result of his dedication and determination, but he credits Ozarks with making sure he had all the building blocks of a successful career in place.
"I had great professors at Ozarks, like Dr. (Stewart) Dippel, Dr. (Gilbert) Parks, and Dr. (David) Strain, who pushed me to focus on professional development in addition to doing well in the classroom. They also helped me secure funding from the Clayton Russell Endowment for political science to offset the cost of taking non-paying internships in places like Sacramento and Washington," Ray said.
"The two things that proved most valuable to me at Ozarks were the opportunities to learn leadership skills and to improve from a communications standpoint. I served as Student Government Association president for a year, which was an excellent crash course in not only leadership but campus politics. I was also involved in lots of extra-curricular activities that helped me become a better speaker and presenter of ideas."
Ray’s advice for other Ozarks students is to take advantage of every available opportunity.
"You only have a few years of undergraduate study, and it’s important to make them count," Ray said. "Take advantage of opportunities to develop a skill, add a credential, and get plugged in on campus. You never know when that summer studying abroad or that internship your professor told you about will turn into a career opportunity down the road."
Topics: Political Science