Brady Quirk-Garvan (C’08)
Brady Quirk-Garvan graduated from the College of Charleston as a political science major in 2008. He is currently a Business Development Associate at Natural Investments: Money With A Mission and Chairman of the Charleston Democratic Party. Our department had the fortunate opportunity to learn more about Brady’s successful career.
What is your role as the Business Development Associate at Natural Investments: Money With A Mission?
My role is to talk with people about how they can align their personal values with their financial life. For example, some of my clients want to invest in alternative energy companies, others want to focus on how many women are on the board of a company, while others might be concerned with whether the company provides benefits to same sex partners. We help people who want to promote progressive values not just in their day-to-day choices in where they shop but also in their retirement and investment accounts.
How did you get involved with this type of work?
I worked on political campaigns and nonprofits for a number of years and realized a good portion of time was spent chasing after money. I decided to move to where the money is and help try to redirect it in a better way. Also, I have family members who have been doing this for a number of years, and was able to shadow them. I soon realized this is truly what I wanted to be doing. It’s been six years and I love it. I get to spend all day talking with people about what they care about but also investing money to create change in this world.
What previous nonprofits and political campaigns did you work with?
I spent two years working for the Palmetto Project which is a statewide nonprofit. I was a project manager, and partnered with the College to help students become poll managers. As we moved to a more digital world, I was able to provide a youthful perspective to this organization.
In college, I worked on smaller political campaigns but right after graduation I had the privilege to spend six months working for Barack Obama in Ohio. I worked in a couple of counties in the southern part of the state. I could not have been more grateful of that opportunity to help elect the first African American president and to work in a critical swing state like Ohio. It was the experience of a lifetime. Following the 2008 election, I worked on State House, county-wide, and city council races. I became a paid consultant, helping people get elected on the local level.
How did you become Chairman of the Charleston Democratic Party and what types of responsibilities and challenges do you face?
From the time I started college in 2004, there has been a trend where Charleston County is becoming more Democratic. You see progressive agenda items like Charleston going smoke free and new opportunities for Democrats to become elected. I’ve known all of the chairs of the party and when I heard that the former chair was not running for reelection, some people reached out to me and asked if I would consider running. After talking with my wife, I agreed to it and ran. Last year, I ran for reelection and was unopposed for the two year term. I am in the first year of my second term as Chairman and I love it.
A lot of my time is spent working with candidates before they decide to run, laying out the realities of what it is like to run for office. We want qualified candidates, but we also want them to be prepared for the realities of running for office. They need to know how much time they will spend on the phone raising money, knocking on doors, and whether they will be comfortable talking to people they have never met before. When they do want to move forward, my job is to be as supportive as possible in helping them get elected.
Being a Democrat in South Carolina is not necessarily the easiest role in the world. It is certainly easier in Charleston than other parts of the state. Our biggest challenge is raising money. In South Carolina, we get no money from the National Democratic Party. We have been able to use some unique strategies to stretch our relatively small budget, but coping with limited resources has certainly been a challenge. My job is to make sure that the local party has the resources needed to be effective on Election Day.
It sounds like you have to be very creative with your resources.
Yes. It requires us to be creative in how we fundraise and spend money. When I talk to counterparts in more liberal states, where they are getting support from the national and state parties, they have much larger budgets and can engage in much more expansive operations. We don’t have that ability. Instead, we rely on leveraging volunteers and spending our money in very targeted ways. We reach out to very specific voters, and utilize volunteers to supplement our efforts.
You attended the Democratic National Convention. What was that experience like?
It was incredible. I had the privilege to go to Charlotte in 2012 to support Barack Obama and recently to Philadelphia where we nominated Hillary Clinton. It’s great to meet people across the country who are willing to take time out of their schedule and spend their own money to be involved in the democratic process. I’d encourage a lot more people to do this. It’s really unique and invigorating for those who care about American democracy.
What has it been like to be interviewed by local media?
When we talk about having limited resources, one of the things we can do as Democrats is use the media that is out there to try and get our message out to people. I spend a lot of time talking with reporters and making sure that both sides are represented. One of the things we find in a Republican-dominated state, like South Carolina, is that sometimes the media just goes to Republicans for quotes and information. As a result, I want to show that Democrats are alive and well in Charleston County and that our point of view is out there.
Are you contacted by the media or do you have to reach out to them?
It’s a combination of both. Around the presidential primaries, the media was reaching out to me. For local issues, it usually requires me reaching out to the media. For example, we had filed ethics charges against two Republicans. The Ethics Commissions found them guilty, and they were fined. In that instance, no one was really covering it, so we had to go to the media. It’s making sure that the media is in tune with what is going on at the local level.
How has your political science degree helped prepare you for your current roles?
My time at College of Charleston was invaluable. I had professors and advisors who encouraged me to not only spend time in the academic setting, but also to explore Charleston, work on campaigns and get real-world experience. I will for always be grateful to them for encouraging me to do that.
The College provides a unique opportunity for people who not only want a strong academic core, but who also want to see what it is like to be engaged in a thriving city. Charleston is such a dynamic place, and the College of Charleston is so integrated into the city that you can’t help but see how the city and College interact and how government affects your life. I think that is one of the great things about the Political Science department – there is this strong academic core and you also have the availability of the rest of the city to see how those academic principles play out in the real world.