John Davis ’78 shares reflections on his career path
John Davis, who graduated in 1978 with a degree in political science, recently contacted the Department of Political Science to share the following reflections on his career.
“My name is John Davis and I attended ISU from 1974–1978 as a Political Science major. I was a member of the college Republican all four years and my last year I was elected President of the College Republicans. While at school I was a charter member of Sigma Pi fraternity (EH Chapter). I also worked on some of the local area election campaigns as a volunteer. I applied for, was interviewed, and was told I would get a job on the Governor’s staff after graduation that did not materialize. I moved back to my hometown, Glen Ellyn, Illinois in the west suburbs of Chicago (DuPage County) and obtained employment as a commercial underwriter (workers compensation and commercial group auto) and got married. I applied to law schools in the area and got elected President of DuPage County Young Republicans. The day I accepted employment with the Illinois Senate Republican staff, requiring that I relocate to Springfield, Illinois, I received notice I was accepted to attend a law school in Chicago. It was a big career decision: law or politics? My wife and I decided to ‘go political’ and work in Springfield.”
“I worked as a GOP staffer for the Senate Insurance Committee and the Senate Public Pension Committee (1979–1981). I had an office in the Capitol building and it was a great learning experience and a fun job. I was there when the Republicans “stole the Senate (majority).” Later I accepted employment at the Illinois Insurance Department as their legislative liaison. I successfully worked on worker’s compensation reform (deregulation of pricing) in 1982 that reduced worker’s compensation premiums for Illinois business by 30 percent on average. This was the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. I wanted to do my part to defeat communism. I joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves (artillery) and still maintained my job at the insurance department. Working in the state bureaucracy was not a fulfilling job for me, so I went to work for an insurance company trade association. I lobbied in Illinois and monitored property and casualty insurance rate regulation legislation in all 50 states. There was a liability crisis in 1985 resulting in large increases in liability insurance rates for business. Many states enacted price controls (prior approval rate regulation). I was quoted more than once in the Wall Street Journal and other business publications. I also was involved in trying to draft federal legislation to create an earthquake reinsurance mechanism to ensure the solvency of the insurance industry if a mega-earthquake ever happened. It was a challenging job and I learned a lot.”
“I accepted the position of Illinois State Director with the National Federation of Independent Business in Springfield in 1987. It was just me and a secretary in the office. I lobbied the state legislature on a wide variety of business issues including workers compensation (again!), health insurance, taxation, tort reform, and utility regulation. I enjoyed getting the opportunity to do Op-Eds ‘Voice of the People’ for the Chicago Tribune and appeared twice on the ‘Chicago Tonight’ show on PBS. While I was state director for nine years, the state membership grew from less than 13,000 to more than 21,000 and the Illinois PAC had the highest per member contribution rate of any state PAC. The PAC success got noticed and I was promoted to Regional Political Director and I moved my family to the Washington, D.C. area to work at the NFIB Washington, D.C. office. I helped increase federal NFIB PAC fundraising by almost 300 percent in the next election cycle (1995–1996). After nearly 13 years at NFIB I went back to the insurance industry to run a PAC and lobby Capitol Hill.”
“I worked for two other associations that provided me the opportunity to lobby in Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, and Kansas, before landing my current job at the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) as director of (federal) legislative programs. I advocate for current and former enlisted seas service (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) military personnel on issues of pay and benefits. I recently celebrated my 14th anniversary as DLP with FRA. I have testified before Congress on several occasions. I write testimony, a weekly legislative newsletter, a monthly column for the association magazine, and position papers used on Capitol Hill. I grew the grassroots advocacy program by more than 1700 percent and emerged as my organization’s ‘go-to’ person on legislative process questions. I organize the annual Capitol Hill reception for awarding legislator of the year award to selected representative or senator in conjunction with the ‘Storming the Hill’ event. I plan the Storming the Hill event that provides an opportunity for activist members to meet their legislators to discuss specific issues. Most of the issues I work on impact the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Working on VA issues is especially difficult and yet can be very rewarding. A big legislative victory for FRA last year was the enactment of substantial improvements for military widow benefits.”
“When I went to ISU, I considered it a privilege, not an entitlement. I was very excited to go to college at a big university. I was the second and last of my five siblings that had the opportunity to go to a four-year college. Looking back on my life, I am proud to be a Marine and I am very proud to be an ISU Redbird alumnus.”