Meet Kevin Cleary — one of the 30 under 30 rising stars in Florida politics

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Kevin Cleary grew up hunting in Georgia and Florida, so it’s no surprise that one of his favorite places to be is in the woods at sunrise.

“I love to watch the woods come alive,” he says. “I love to see the sun rise over the water and over the pines. It’s a very tranquil place to be.”

The guy who likes tranquility describes one of his professional strengths as an ability to organize chaos.

Whether it’s the rough and tumble of a campaign or a legislative session, Kevin says, “We’re pulled in every direction.”

For Kevin, organizing chaos means setting priorities and being able to work with people with a multitude of skills and perspectives.

“It’s a people industry,” Kevin says. “You have to treat people with respect to be effective.”

Kevin has learned those lessons working for the Republican Party of Florida and working for Rep. Ben Albritton as campaign director and legislative assistant.

Now Kevin is taking his political skills in a new direction, working with Andy Palmer at 96 Consulting, which does digital and direct mail.

Here is Kevin in his own words:

I am 29 years old

I live in Tallahassee. I graduated from Florida State University. I hope to visit Italy to see my favorite Renaissance painting “The School of Athens.” My favorite place to visit is Ireland.

I got into politics, surprisingly enough, while sitting around a campfire in Georgia. I have always been interested in politics, but never considered it as career until a good friend suggested I work during a legislative session. After watching legislation being crafted first hand, I knew that I found my career.

One principle I always put above politics is… integrity. Politics is designed to have different perspectives and opinions, but it is most impressive when you work collectively to accomplish something that one individual cannot do alone. This is readily achieved when people are honest with each other and show respect for the person and this process.

Person or people who gave me my first shot… I would attribute that to a few people. Jim Naff was the catalyst to why I even considered politics as a career. Rick Watson was the first person to show me that success is built by helping others in their own pursuits and goals. Mike Grissom has been a political mentor since the beginning. I am always grateful for his honest insight, and very proud to call him my friend. Each of these individuals had a part in me finding my way into this process because each of them had an interest in helping others, and I hope to be as helpful to others as they were to me.

I’ve already worked for/on… I have been very fortunate to work on or assist in a multitude of campaigns across the state for both the state and federal level over the years at the Republican Party of Florida. I also have been very blessed to work in the legislative process as a legislative assistant to Rep. Ben Albritton.

When I begin a project or first work on a campaign, I look for… I try to identify dedicated and passionate individuals who are willing to put their candidate’s needs before their own.

I’ve been blessed to have these people as my mentors… Andy Palmer is a mentor, friend and co-worker with me at ‘96 Consulting. I have been blessed to have known Andy for many years, and always value his counsel. I truly hope to one day have the same level of insight about Florida’s political process as he.

The people I most admire in politics are… President Abraham Lincoln, not only was he the first Republican President, he was a true leader during America’s most tumultuous times. I admire a leader with enough strength and courage to assemble a Cabinet made up of the most diverse political minds, including his adversaries and work together to lead a nation.

One lesson I’ve already learned is… I learned a lot of lessons while working with Rep. Ben Albritton, but the overarching lesson that I learned from him is that this process should be about people. Not in the conventional or strategic sense like the overused phrase, “its not what you know, but who you know.” Instead, I am referring to a compassionate viewpoint where you invest time in understanding what an individual or group’s passions are. Whether you are an elected official casting a vote, an advocate for an issue, or a person trying to debate with a friend at a water cooler, one is never effective if they only concern themselves what they desire.

If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in (which field)… I have an extensive construction background from working the summers with my father, and though my childhood dream was to be a Disney animator, I would probably enjoy teaching like my mother.

In 10 years, you’ll read about me… We will have to wait and see…

You can connect with me on social media: Facebook or LinkedIn.

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.