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Andrew Ketchel, 29

Consultant at Capital City Consulting

Go ahead. Call Andrew Ketchel a policy wonk. It wouldn’t bother him in the slightest. His love affair with policy began with a “leap of faith.” He was getting his graduate degree at the University of South Florida, where he played football and received his undergraduate degree, and decided to apply for the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program. It was a chance, but one that helped launch his career. He got into the program, and spent nearly a year at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. After that was a stint in the Governor’s Office, before landing at the Department of Environmental Protection. “It seemed like a really cool area to learn,” said Ketchel, who most recently served as the agency’s director of legislative affairs. “It was a fascinating experience. I learned so much.” His three years came as the state was handling a host of different environmental issues, including battles over a contentious hydraulic fracking bill and the passage of wide-sweeping water legislation. His poise through the rough patches caught the eye of Nick Iarossi, who convinced him to join Capital City Consulting in October. “From what I’ve seen, for a lot of people in his age group there is a love of the politics and the love of the social sect in being in the industry, but (I see) a real dearth of policy knowledge,” said Iarossi. “That’s where guys like Andrew excel, and that’s what separates him from the pack. He is a good, genuine guy. He likes to dive into the policy issues. He’s willing to roll up his sleeves and get to the policy things.” For Ketchel, the move to Capital City is a long-term one. And don’t expect him to ever bid adieu to his home state. “I can’t imagine doing this any other state,” he said. “This is the place you want to be if you’re in governmental affairs.”

Kristen McDonald thought she’d become a lawyer when she grew up. Then she went to law school, and everything changed. “I absolutely hated it,” she said. “I found it so boring, just sitting in the library for hours on end and having teachers tell you it’s not anything like what you see on TV.” She had gotten a taste for politics as an undergrad at Florida State, participating in a seminar about the 2008 election. She was hooked, and after a year of law school (and trying to convince her parents it just wasn’t for her), she decided to give politics a try. It’s a good thing she did. Although under 30, she’s considered one of the most valuable talents in the industry. She’s worked for some of the top communicators in the state, learning the tricks of the trade as an intern in Gov. Rick Scott’s communications office, working under Brian Burgess and Brian Hughes. McDonald joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies in May, after stints at the Republican Party of Florida and in the Office of the House Majority Leader. The move gave her a chance to spread her wings into public affairs, allowing her to become a bit of an expert on everything. “When Kristen joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Tallahassee office and the Florida public affairs practice, we felt as though we had hit the jackpot,” said Alia Faraj-Johnson, the Florida public affairs leader and senior vice president at Hill+Knowlton Strategies in Tallahassee. Faraj-Johnson said McDonald is “strategic and calm, two very important traits when tackling high-stakes issues.” And after three years working in the Florida House, Faraj-Johnson said McDonald’s “knowledge of the legislative process is unsurpassed.” McDonald sees a future for herself and Hill+Knowlton, but don’t ask for specifics about her plans for her future. “I have no idea. I had a 10-20-30 year plan of what my life was going to look like and what I was going to be doing, but it just doesn’t work out that way,” she said. “I try not to do that now. I just roll with the punches.”


Kristen McDonald, 28

Account supervisor at Hill+Knowlton Strategies

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson


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INFLUENCE Florida Winter 2016  

The people, professionals and lifestyle of Florida politics

INFLUENCE Florida Winter 2016  

The people, professionals and lifestyle of Florida politics