Alexandre Chateaubriand ’11: from campaign intern, to Governor Inslee’s office, to Dept. of Commerce policy director
Evergreen alumnus Alexandre Chateaubriand ’11 has had a long and varied path from college to his current position as the director of policy and legislative affairs at the Washington State Department of Commerce, despite his relatively young age.
Ambition was ingrained in Chateaubriand’s character from his days at Evergreen.
“I tried and failed at a lot of things. I started a lot of different clubs,” he said.
One club in particular, his pre-law club, somewhat predicated his current work.
“We called it the Law Society of Evergreen. At the time, I really thought I was going to be a lawyer and go into civil rights,” Chateaubriand said.
Under his and other’s leadership, the Law Society of Evergreen provided students with a tenant’s rights workshop, which provided first-time renters with a rundown of their rights and gave them information for their security.
“It was a great opportunity to walk people though and say ‘hey this is what you should know when you sign an agreement with a property manager or landowner, and here’s what to do if you get into a situation where there’s damage or property issues,’” Chateaubriand said.
The Law Society of Evergreen had a lasting effect on Chateaubriand.
“It turned out to be massively successful. It was a very challenging experience but it was a very rewarding experience. I kept getting more out of it even years later.”
During fall 2010, his senior year at Evergreen, Chateaubriand was recruited to serve as an intern on (now State Superintendent of Public Instruction) Chris Reykdal’s campaign for a seat on the Washington State House of Representatives.
“I remember there was another student, Colin, who knew that I was interested in working in politics and was working on the Reykdal campaign. He was the one who came and recruited me. In hindsight, it really set off a series of chain reactions,” he said.
While working on the Reykdal campaign, Chateaubriand gathered experience for the work he would do later.
“I made phone calls,” he said. “And I did data entry and I did doorbelling and I did all the things you do when you’re an intern.”
After the Reykdal campaign, Chateaubriand interned at the Washington State Legislature where he met Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) Marie Sullivan. When his internship was finished, Sullivan hired Chateaubriand to serve as a legislative analyst and researcher at WSSDA.
“I helped prepare documents for her and did bill analysis. I researched legal cases that would impact school districts,” he said.
After serving in that role for some time, Chateaubriand returned to the campaign trail, this time for gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee.
“I got the call from Chris Reykdal's former campaign manager (Evergreen MPA alumnus Justin Montermini) who said Jay Inslee is looking for somebody. So, I went and applied and they gave me the job,” Chateaubriand said.
His breadth of responsibility was wider than ever before during his time on the Inslee campaign.
“I was a field organizer for the Olympic Peninsula in the South Sound, so I was based out of Thurston County but I had Mason, Grays Harbor, Kitsap, and Cle Elum,” Chateaubriand said. “I managed five offices and a couple dozen interns.”
After the campaign, and Inslee’s victory, Chateaubriand worked with the transition office, helping to situate Inslee into his newly won position.
“If you’re a government nerd, transition is a fascinating time,” Chateaubriand said. “You’re transferring over but you’re not yet in the seat of power, so you have a government in waiting.”
This “government in waiting” was the object of much speculation and imagination for Chateaubriand.
“Everything you are doing is sort of a build up for this hand off. And so you’re thinking through ‘what are all the things that I want my administration to look like,’ ‘how is this going to be built,’ and you’re learning,” he said.
After the dust of the transition had settled, Chateaubriand worked as a policy advisor to the governor, something he considered a dream come true.
“They wanted someone who could kind of be a catch all, a generalist. As stuff comes up, you pick it up, learn it and work on it,” he said.
Different cases from almost all the branches of state government made their way onto Chateaubriand’s desk at one point or another.
“I worked on education,” he said. “I worked on natural resources; I got to do financial institutions; some issues around payday lending; I worked on some cannabis policy when that went into effect; I worked on ferry policy; I worked on licensing; workforce development; I worked on higher education and a whole bunch of other stuff too.”
After serving as a policy advisor in Governor Inslee's office and then policy director on Inslee's 2016 reelection campaign, years of networking and performance paid off and Chateaubriand was called for a new position.
“A position in the Department of Commerce opened up and then the director called and said ‘hey, we have a position opening up.’ We talked for a bit, I interviewed and that’s how I became the legislative director,” Chateaubriand said.
Chateaubriand doesn’t attribute his career success all to his own social savvy or to his governmental erudition.
“It was a lot of lucky moments, certainly a lot of privilege,” he said. “I won’t at all step aside from the fact that looking the way I do and being who I am opened a lot of doors.”
Chateaubriand now tries to pay his privilege forward.
“I wanted to make sure that if I was going to have that opportunity I was going to use it to give back to the community I was a part of,” he said.
Chateaubriand thinks that the traditional view of career advancement no longer holds up.
“In most fields these days, the idea of a ladder that you need to climb, a specific path that you need to walk, it just isn’t as true as it once was,” he said.
He sees careers more as a series of doors through which one passes by way of passion and hard work.
“Pick the thing that you feel passionate about. Pick the thing that motivates you. View your career as concentric circles that spread out,” Chateaubriand said. “By starting on campaigns by taking an internship I started to build networks and the pond I got to be in started to expand.”
Chateaubriand believes that networking and support are the pillars upon which success rests.
“If you care about civil rights, if you care about reproductive rights, pick a likeminded group and give what time you can,” he said. “Whatever your situation. Give what you can and leave as good of an impression as you can because that’s going to open up other doors that will expand your network circles.”