People tend to find their way to activism, particularly political activism, because of an issue that affects them personally. However, it takes more than just having a personal stake in the fight that makes someone successful in doing campaign fieldwork.
It takes tenacity to never take no for an answer, endurance to work 14-hour days, weeks on end and an acrobatic level of flexibility to adjust to constantly changing plans. Stef Reynolds, the Pinellas County field organizer for NextGen America, has all of these attributes and more. The first time I saw Stef in action, running a team of volunteers, fellows and other organizers was St. Pete Pride. We knew this would be one of our biggest opportunities to make sure likeminded young progressives knew there was an election coming up and were registered to vote. With hundreds of thousands in attendance it was no small feat to execute an ambitious plan that had us taking part in every single Pride event from the Pride Prom to the street festival to the parade. Mid-way through the weekend I remember sitting with Stef and talking about what was going well and what we could be doing better. As we sat in a coffee shop surrounded by discarded feather boas and clipboards, the only area of improvement I could find was, well, maybe we could have had more detail in our plans going into the rest of the weekend. In classic Stef style, she took the feedback to heart and from that point on every plan she submitted was detailed down to the minute. I used them as examples for what event plans should look like for the rest of the campaign.
But more than being able to take a plan and run with it, Stef was the glue that held our region together. Like a true Texan she has a mouth like a sailor and in a field where people become adept at talking in circles, Stef says what she means and means what she says. She was the bestower of nicknames, the couch you could crash on, the organizer of the organizers and I could not have been more proud to work with her.
Progressives in Pinellas County turned out and voted for Andrew Gillum by three points. A county that went red in 2016 voted for an unabashedly proud progressive this year because of people like Stef Reynolds.