DES MOINES, Iowa — During caucus and election time all eyes are on presidential candidates. However, the unsung heroes of their campaigns are field organizers.
These field organizers build the groundwork of local voter contact for campaigns. They recruit volunteers, precinct leaders are the connecting piece between candidates and the community.
Founder of Iowa Starting Line, Pat Rynard began his political career working with campaigns such as Hilary Clinton’s in 2008.
Rynard said these young field organizers uproot their lives, move to unknown places, and work tirelessly to connect voters with presidential candidates.
So imagine what it feels like to spend months on a campaign and not be able to see the results of all your hard work on caucus night.
“It’s very disappointing for the people who work those 80 hour weeks and who may have won in their county, but then the whole world doesn’t even get to know about it yet until several days afterwards and eventually people move on,” Rynard said.
These jobs last for no more than six months at a time. With the constant moving, Rynard said being an organizer takes a toll on your finances. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of an organizer is a little under $37,000 a year. They often have to pay for their own relocation, short leases to go from city to city, transportation and they have to save for the unemployment gaps in between gigs. The scariest part about being an organizer is the instability.
“There’s a number of field organizers for presidential candidates this cycle who had a lease then their candidate dropped out. And you can’t plan for that,” Rynard said. “So it’s when you’re working on these campaigns you try and save up as much money as you can because you know that at the end of every cycle, may be out of work.”
This all leaves little time to even think about a personal life.
“You’re working 60 to 80 hours a week so you don’t have much time to keep in touch with family back home and friends back home. It’s almost impossible to like have a kid if you’re still a lower level of staffer moving around,” Rynard said.
However, he also expressed the political rush you get from being an organizer makes the sacrifices bearable.
“Once you get that political bug, it’s hard to leave it,” Rynard said. “And at the end of the day, you can see a real impact on what your work on the ground does and moving votes, empowering people and getting people excited about participating in elections and in their government. It can be very rewarding.”