Answering the Call

St. George’s alumnus serves on Lee Harris’ mayoral campaign


Photo: Spencer Cotham

St. George’s alumnus poses with a Lee Harris sign from the recent campaign. Doucette said the experience of working on the campaign helped him learn leadership skills.

“I wanted to take action.” Matthew Doucette, a 2018 graduate of St. George’s, answered the call to serve his community when he reached out to Mr. Lee Harris’s campaign for mayor of Shelby County. As a young adult in the Memphis community, he was exactly what the campaign was looking for in a “New Era” intern.

Doucette is one of many young people in Shelby County who wanted to make his way onto the political scene. And as he would tell you, it’s not about adding to a résumé, pursuing fame or finding a job just for the sake of having one, it’s about making a difference.

“I, like many other people, was very dissatisfied with the outcome of the 2016 congressional and presidential elections,” Doucette said. “I thought that working for the campaign to benefit the community would be a good way to use my time.”

Recent political developments were not the only reason Doucette decided to support and eventually work for Mr. Harris. His family had learned about Harris well before the primary elections, and based on his record and the platform on which he campaigned, they rallied behind him.

“Just looking at his platform of making larger investments than we have in the county and public education, we’re strong supporters of that,” Doucette said about his family’s stake in the political sphere of Memphis. “[My impression] was that he was an intelligent man with good intentions and good ideas for the community…He really has a pragmatic personality but at the same time he’s very upbeat and charismatic and really passionate for serving his community and doing his part to help out any way he can.”

Doucette served as an intern on the campaign, and was one of just under 20 members of the staff. He was involved in the nitty-gritty of the campaign process, often taking care of simple tasks that he could get done quickly.

“I made a lot of lists for him, I logged information that the campaign got from canvassing, like knocking on doors and interviewing people about who they support,” Doucette said. “I ran a lot of errands for him, I did a lot of phone banking, I wrote letters on behalf of the campaign, I put yard signs on stands, stuffed envelopes.”

But according to the campaign manager, Ms. Danielle Inez, the role of Doucette and his peers was not limited to the role of a runner or errand man. While Doucette did focus on some odd jobs and random tasks, he was also involved with the campaign in an advisory capacity.

“Our New Era interns were the best part of the experience,” Ms. Inez said. “Historically, interns made coffee and fetched office supplies. Matthew and his peers were at the table with us every day – discussing our platform issues, helping to make campaign decisions, and spearheading critical projects. They were gutsy leaders who weren’t afraid to ask questions, push back and stand up for the issues that matter most to them.”

Doucette often worked with Ms. Inez, going to her to be assigned his next task. One task in particular on which Doucette was proud of his work was the process of phone banking, or calling constituents in an effort to win their vote.

“You’ve got to channel his tone and great enthusiasm and upbeatness,” Doucette said. “So that was definitely a challenge I had to get over initially.”

Just as working on the campaign helped Doucette channel his skills in the political setting, Ms. Inez came away from the campaign feeling like a better and more experienced leader.

“Mayor Harris is a professor by trade,” she said. “He sought opportunities to make me think about problem-solving differently. He also challenged me to be creative when opportunity allowed and be more conservative when the reward wasn’t worth the risk. I feel like I walked away from that experience as a more mature leader than when I started.”

Doucette and Inez’s experiences are signs of progress for Shelby County. People from multiple generations are finding ways to be involved, and the generation of young adults are on the rise in the political world.

As Ms. Inez said, “If our interns were representative of the future, we are indeed on the cusp of ‘A New Era’ in Shelby County.”