Meet Kristen McDonald – one of the 30 under 30 rising stars in Florida politics

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Kristen McDonald already has a reputation in Tallahassee.

She’s known as a communicator, a valuable talent in a town where there’s a whole lotta talking but not necessarily a whole lotta communicating.

She’s developed those skills working for Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of Florida and most recently as communications director for the House Majority Office.

Her favorite part of the job, she said, “is interacting with 74 Republican members. I worked with all of them, helping them with their press and communication needs.”

Out of the office, she communicates loudly on behalf of the Seminoles and the Atlanta Braves.

And as a Florida native, she loves spending time with friends and family at the beach.

Here is Kristen in her own words:

I am 26 years old.

I live in Tallahassee but grew up in Panama City, Florida. I graduated from Florida State University (twice—Go Noles!). I hope to visit Germany and Scotland, to learn more about my family and where we came from.

I got into politics during the 2008 presidential election. Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer and had never paid much attention to politics. But in my last semester of undergrad, I was invited to take an advanced seminar course on the election, and I immediately became fascinated, particularly with how people perceived the candidates and their stances on the issues. I knew I wanted to help shape those views, but it took a while to convince my parents that becoming a lawyer just wasn’t in the cards.

One principle I always put above politics is… to be loyal to those who have proven their loyalty to you.

Person or people who gave me my first shot… Mary Alice McElheney, who gave me my first internship in Governor Rick Scott’s communications office. Brian Hughes, who took a chance and offered me my first paid political job with the Republican Party of Florida.

I’ve already worked for/on… Governor Rick Scott (communications intern), the Republican Party of Florida (press secretary), and the Florida House of Representatives Majority Office (communications director). While I haven’t been involved in politics long, I have been fortunate to experience a lot in just these past few years—Presidency 5, a few presidential debates, a national convention, and two sessions (plus a special!) have taught me a lot.

When I begin a project or first work on a campaign, I… do my research. I want to learn as much as I can about the issue. Working in communications, I don’t always have a lot of lead time, but I think it’s important to know the facts, research a little bit of background and see what others have already said.

I’ve been blessed to have these people as my mentors… Lisa Meyer, Brian Hughes, Brian Burgess, and Ryan Duffy — all have taken the time to teach me and help me be better at my job.

The people I most admire in politics are… those who stand up for what they genuinely believe is right, regardless of how it polls.

One lesson I’ve already learned is…I couldn’t pick just one. I believe these go hand in hand:

1. The Godfather said it best, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

2. Never stop doing your best just because someone doesn’t give you credit.

If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in… psychology. I like to think I give good advice…hopefully my friends agree!

In 10 years… I’m not sure where I will be. I just hope I have found a way to have it all—a successful career in politics, a family of my own, and good friends.

You can connect with me on Twitter: @Kris10McDonald.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.