Amy Kroll: Powered by people
Amy Kroll directs the LBJ Women’s Campaign School, a University of Texas program that trains women to run for office and seek campaign staff positions. Her journey into politics was driven by the power of people, taking her from California to Missouri, Washington, D.C., and Texas. In each place, Amy was fueled by the passion of the people she served. The memories of the people she has served keeps her rooted in public service.
At the age of 6, Amy visited Washington, D.C. with her family. She was able to tour places like the Capitol, the National Mall, and the Smithsonian Museums. After she toured the White House, she bought two books: a book of Presidents and a book of First Ladies. Amy remembers being upset that one book was full of women and one book was full of men. Even at a young age, she recognized the disparity in leadership positions between men and women.
Throughout much of her childhood, Amy would send letters to her two U.S. Senators at the time: Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). She remembers corresponding about ocean conservation matters and anti-genocide work in Darfur, Sudan. When she would receive responses, she would feel invigorated to keep writing and researching (later understanding that a dutiful staffer was likely writing the letters). Regardless, it meant so much to Amy that she could look up to both of these women serving as senators.
By the time Amy entered college, she was still unsure what major to declare. Whenever she thought about working in a field unrelated to policy, she did not feel right. She would dabble in different classes, but a gut feeling brought her back to politics. She decided to major in international relations with a minor in German. Upon graduating in 2012, an election year, she accepted a campaign position with U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
For Senator McCaskill’s campaign, Amy moved to a rural part of Missouri where a local brick factory had been shut down, the main source of income and employment for constituents. Folks in the community used whatever extra money they had to help fund the campaign team. Amy remembers people purchasing a card table, folding chairs, and even a mini fridge for the office, all because they felt that electing Senator McCaskill would help their community. She described the experience as a people-powered campaign. Amy’s encounter with the thoughtful residents of Missouri fueled her passion to continue helping others.
Following the campaign, Amy bought a one-way ticket for Washington, D.C. without secured housing beyond her first week. Her goal was to follow her passion to help the people. Each day during that first week, Amy would arrive at the Capitol dressed in a suit with a stack of resumes. She left her information in different offices until Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered her an internship in his press office. From there, she landed a full-time job in the National Democratic Institute (“NDI”), an international democracy-supporting institution.
At the NDI, Amy worked on the “political parties” team which worked on building democracy in other countries through various political party platforms. She admired the work of the “women in democracy” team, a different division in the NDI that focused on training women to run for office around the world. She admired the work to bring more women into public office remembers wanting to mirror this work in the United States. While in D.C., Amy also accepted a role working for the Democratic National Committee where she served the assistant to the chairperson.
Concurrently, Amy met her husband—a Captain in the Air Force. Her husband was restationed in San Antonio, Texas. Amy and her husband originally planned to maintain a long-distance relationship, but her husband serendipitously found a position for Amy with the Texas Democratic Party, on Congressman Pete Gallego’s campaign. From there, Amy continued to work for the Texas Democratic Party and then became the Deputy Campaign Manager for Jay Huling’s Congressional campaign.
Following the 2018 election, the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs campus invited Hillary Clinton to accept a public service award. Watching Secretary Clinton at that ceremony, Amy felt inspired to do more to support women candidates. She brainstormed a training program to prepare women for candidacy—what would become the LBJ Women’s Campaign School. Amy—a master’s student at the University—pitched the concept to different professors, donors, and the Dean of the school. With overwhelming support, Amy was hired by the campus as a student worker to build this program. When she graduated in 2020, she was hired full-time.
Founding the LBJ Women’s Campaign School has been Amy’s greatest accomplishment in her career thus far. The first inaugural cohort of participants recently graduated from the program. A handful of participants have since declared their candidacy for 2021 and accepted full-time policy positions.
Amy’s passion for people has kept her grounded in her work. She advises other women interested in pursuing policy work or politics to stay connected with the people you are serving. “It is all about serving others, having that connection to others and their own fears and hopes and dreams will help to make you the best possible public servant,” Amy said.
The LBJ Women’s Campaign School is currently accepting applications until March 15, 2021 for its second cohort. Apply here.