Meet Ieva Smidt – one of the 30 under 30 rising stars in Florida politics

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You never know where the road will take you, says Ieva Smidt and she should know.

On her road, she has traveled from her native Lithuania to Philadelphia to Hamilton County, Fla., and to Tallahassee.

Her parents, who immigrated from Lithuania when she was 3, are both doctors and she was going to pursue a career in medicine. But she wasn’t enjoying her science classes at Florida State University.

Then one day she ran by the Republican Party office to pick up a McCain/Palin bumper sticker and was asked if she wanted to volunteer. And that’s when she discovered that there’s a whole lot more to the government process than what she learned in school.

“I loved it and I changed my major to political science,” she says.

She especially loves the chance to make a difference. “People laugh and say one peson can’t change things, if you get a group of people together you can,” Ieva says.

“And it is constantly changing. You’re always kept on your toes. It’s a constant learning process.”

For the last several years, she has worked in the House Speaker’s office, but in August, she began working with political fundraiser Kris Money.

“You never know where life is going to take you. I don’t know if I’ll stay in Tallahassee or where the road will lead,” she says. “With fundraising you can go in a lot of directions, politics, nonprofits. I would really love to develop those skills.”

Ieva also is a proud of her Lithuanian heritage, speaks it fluently and stays involved with the community in Philadelphia.

“There are only 3.5 million of us,” she says. “You never want to be the reason the language or culture dies with you. We try to keep it alive.”

Here is Ieva in her own words:

I am 25 years old or young depending on how you want to look at it.

I live in Tallahassee but grew up in Hamilton County, Florida and was actually born in Lithuania. I immigrated with my family in 1992. We started out just outside of Philadelphia and my father’s medical work brought us to Hamilton County. We were only supposed to stay there for about 3 years, but ended up settling down. Then I moved to Tallahassee for school. I had an intention to leave after school but stumbled into this crazy world of politics and have stayed here.

 I graduated from Florida State in 2010 and again in 2014.I hope to visit every single place on my bucket list, which is growing by the day. I’m a person who loves to travel and will take any and every opportunity to do so. Sitting still drives me nuts!

I got into politics completely on accident; I was looking for a “Women for McCain/Palin” bumper sticker. At the time, I was a science major at FSU, miserable in all of my classes, and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was election season 2008 and after watching one of the debates with my friends, I asked her where she had gotten her bumper sticker. She directed me to the Republican Party of Florida (I had no idea such a place existed). I walked in, asked for a bumper sticker and ended up spending the rest of my free time between that day and Election Day making phone calls for McCain/Palin. After that, I switched my major and haven’t looked back since.

I was always interested in politics, but I have never had any intention of running for elected office. So I wrote politics off as far as career choices go. However, after volunteering and interning for a while, I realized how much work is done behind the scenes. They never really teach that to you during your high school government classes.

One principle I always put above politics is… Treat everyone with respect and kindness.

Person or people who gave me my first shot… Andy Palmer. I walked into his office and asked him to give me a job after my internship came to an abrupt end after RPOF’s troubles in 2010. I had had a conversation with him about 5 days before walking into his office. It was January and he asked me if I would ever consider working on a campaign. I said sure and he told me to come back to see him sometime in May. Instead, I walked in 5 days later and he agreed to hire me on as an intern.

I’ve already worked for/on… McCain/Palin (as a volunteer), RPOF (as an intern), Parliament of Lithuania, Speaker Cannon (at House Campaigns while he was Speaker-Designate) and Speaker Weatherford (both at House Campaigns while he was Speaker-Designate and in the Speaker’s Office during his speakership)

When I begin a project or first work on a campaign, I look for…I look at the principal who I will be working for. Are they someone I can believe in and are they someone I have respect for? I refuse to work for a person or a cause that I do not believe in.

I’ve been blessed to have these people as my mentors… Kathy Mears and Kris Money. Both of them took me under their wing and I have learned so much from them. I don’t think I could have asked for better people in this process to have had the privilege of working for and beside.

The people I most admire in politics are… Speaker Weatherford. Always appreciative, always humble, always honest, and will do the right thing even though it isn’t the easiest.

One lesson I’ve already learned is… don’t burn bridges. There really is no reason for one to be rude to others. You never know when you may need help from an unlikely source and you never know who you may be talking to.

If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in (which field)… medicine. I would have finished my undergrad in biology and gone on to med school. The original life plan was to follow in my parents’ footsteps and go into medicine.

In 10 years, you’ll read about me… Hopefully, you won’t be reading about me. I like the behind the scenes work.

You can connect with me on social media: Twitter – @IevaRS

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.