Decision Vision Episode 44: Should I Run for Political Office? – An Interview with Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, Georgia House of Representatives, and Councilman Colin Ake, City of Woodstock
More business owners than ever are running for political office. What should I consider in making this decision? How will holding political office affect my business? On this edition of “Decision Vision,” host Mike Blake speaks with business Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, Georgia House of Representatives, and Councilman Colin Ake, City of Woodstock on these questions and much more. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, Georgia House of Representatives
Dar’shun Kendrick was born and raised in Decatur, Georgia. She has a dual degree in political science and communications from Oglethorpe University, a law degree from the University of Georgia and a Master in Business Administration from Kennesaw State. Both of her parents are entrepreneurs so she grew up understanding the unique challenges of business owners, particularly business owners of color.
That’s why since 2010, Dar’shun has dedicated her capital compliance law firm to making sure everyone has access to legal services and tools to raise capital for their business in a way that makes sense for every size business and every investor. Her passion and focus have specifically been on making sure that minorities and women have access to the tools and resources they need to reach their capital raising goals. To date, she has helped companies raise over half a billion ($500MM) in investment funds. In 2019, she became a Series 65 license holder (investment adviser representative) with the ability to provide strategic investment advice to her corporate clients as a part of her services.
Dar’shun is also an innovator and community activist. She was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 people positioned to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Inclusive Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond. In 2017, she was elected to the Technology Association of Georgia’s (TAG) Corporate Development Board and in 2018 elected to the TAG Diversity Board. She is also a past contributor to Black Enterprise Magazine focusing on economic justice issues. In 2017, she founded Georgia’s 1st ever Georgia Blacks in Tech Policy Conference & Follow Up “Day of Action” with the focus on advocating for inclusive tech policy throughout the state. This event continues on today as the “Tech for All” Policy Conference.
Dar’shun’s service extends beyond her capital compliance firm. Since the age of 27, she has also served as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. She represents over 54,000 Georgians in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. She also founded Georgia’s first Technology, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Caucus which is a bipartisan caucus of Georgia legislators and stakeholders committed to the mission of supporting entrepreneurs within the state. She currently serves as the Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and a ranking member of the Small Business & Jobs Creation committee.
Awards (last 3 awards awarded)- She was awarded the Urban League of Greater Atlanta Young Leader Award (2019) and named as an awardee for the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “40 under 40” awards (2019) and nominated for 2 NAACP awards for criminal justice reform and her business (2017 and 2019).
Dar’shun is a community activist, public speaker & teacher, elected official, private securities attorney, and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She currently resides in Lithonia, Georgia.
Councilman Colin Ake, City of Woodstock
Colin Ake was elected to Woodstock City Council in 2017. Prior to announcing his run for City Council, Colin served as the Mayor’s appointee on the Woodstock Planning and Zoning Commission for a year and a half. While on the Planning Commission, he was elected Vice-Chair by his peers. Colin served as the Chair of the Greenprints Alliance Board of Directors in 2016 and 2017, and as the Vice-Chair in 2015. He was invited to represent Greenprints Alliance on the Woodstock Police Department’s Body-Worn-Camera Working Group. Colin has provided significant input to the Cherokee Office of Economic Development and Woodstock Office of Economic Development on Fresh Start Cherokee and The Circuit as they work to incorporate startups into their economic development plans.
Professionally, Colin is employed by Georgia Tech’s VentureLab, where he works with commercialization projects. He teaches entrepreneurship to commercialization teams through the NSF I-Corps Program, where he is a Regional Lead Instructor. He leads programs across the southeast and assists in the administration of the I-Corps South grant at Georgia Tech. Colin has taught at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business and is a member of the Georgia Tech Faculty Senate. He also represented Georgia Tech on the State Senate’s Camden County Spaceport Study Committee, where he studied the opportunities and challenges facing the potential spaceport on the Georgia coast.
Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Colin spent four years rebuilding an aerospace company focused on reusable launch operations and lunar/planetary lander technology development. He previously worked at the Georgia Tech Research Institute and at an early-stage technology startup for two years. Colin holds a Bachelor of Science in Management and a MBA from Georgia Tech.
Colin grew up a mile from Woodstock and moved back to the city with his wife Nikki to start their family. Colin, Nikki, and children (Owen & Lealynn) are members at Sojourn Community Church in Woodstock, where Nikki is an active member of the finance committee, and Colin plays drums and works on long-term planning projects.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast. Past episodes of “Decision Vision” can be found here. “Decision Vision” is produced and broadcast by the North Fulton studio of Business RadioX®.
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Intro: [00:00:09] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Mike Blake: [00:00:28] And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owners or executives perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand where you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: [00:00:48] My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia, which is where we’re recording today. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe in your favorite podcast aggregator and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: [00:01:11] So, today, we’re going to talk about whether you as a business owner executive should run for political office. And regardless, I think, of where you are in the political spectrum, if you are at any place, I’m not sure where I am anymore, I think that’s an increasingly important topic. I think we’re seeing more people with a business background seeking office at all levels. And indeed, like them or love them, love them or not like them, the current President of the United States does come from a business background. And indeed, he ran on his business background as a reason why that is the case he made that he would be a good president of the United States. And that’s something that he invokes fairly regularly.
Mike Blake: [00:02:02] And it’s not just he that’s doing that. Mike Bloomberg has recently jumped into the race. There’s discussion now about, you know, whether billionaires can buy their way to the presidency. And again, we’re not going to talk about that particular topic, but I think there’s an increasingly blurred line now between politics and business. And maybe there’s always been a blurred line and depending, again, where you sit, maybe it’s an uncomfortably blurred line. But the fact of the matter is, I think, that the people who did not think that they had the stuff or the wherewithal, even the desire to run for political office and just sort of put themselves in the seat of being a business person, now, are thinking of themselves potentially in a dual role or maybe it’s even something they do with either a subsequent or intervening chapter in their lives.
Mike Blake: [00:02:56] And, you know, the recent statistics on this podcast still are flooring to me. We’re pushing about three-and-a-half million downloads, I understand, since February. Chances are good at least one of you has thought about running for political office. So, at least, this could be interesting to one of you out there. But I think it will be interesting to more on that. And we actually have a director at Brady Ware & Company that was elected mayor for one of the towns, I believe, outlying Dayton. He took over as mayor when the previous mayor resigned. And then, ran and was elected in his own right. So, we’re even seeing that inside our own company.
Mike Blake: [00:03:35] So, as you know, when you listen to this podcast, we’re bringing in people who actually know what they’re talking about, because I certainly don’t. And coming in to talk about this topic today are two people who are balancing public service and their own careers. And so, joining us today is Dar’shun Kendrick, a five-term member of the 93rd and/or 94th Districts of Georgia in the Georgia House of Representatives as the chief deputy whip. And I say the 93rd/94th, because I think it was a 94th District for her first term. And then, thanks to redistricting, I think it then became the 93rd. But for those who aren’t in Georgia, our assembly is made up of 180 members, a fairly large body, partially because we just have, I think, more counties than anybody in the country.
Mike Blake: [00:04:25] We’re not serving her constituents in this capacity. Dar’shun is a capitol compliance lawyer dedicated to guiding Black and female founders in the capitol, raising investing process. She provides these services through her company, the Kendrick Advisory, an advocacy group. She’s an arbitrator of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or FINRA. I did not know that before I was researching this podcast and she holds a bachelor of arts from Oglethorpe University, I live about a-mile-and-a-half from there, holds an MBA from Kennesaw State University and a law degree from the University of Georgia.
Mike Blake: [00:04:56] And she’s joining us by phone today. So, you may hear some noise in the background. With those of you who are not from Georgia, we have a unique driving environment here. And one of the unique features of the driving environment is that rain, particularly cold rain, will turn the streets of the greater Atlanta metropolitan area into an episode of Ice Road Truckers, basically. So, Dar’shun, please drive carefully as you’re on the podcast. Thanks for joining us.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:05:25] Yeah. Thanks so much. And I’m sorry I couldn’t be in the office or in the studio today. But as you know, we are getting ready for session. So, we’re trying to make do with the 24 hours we get.
Mike Blake: [00:05:37] Yeah. Well, if you guys can vote a 26-hour day, I’d really appreciate that.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:05:42] Yeah. So would I. I’ll work on that.
Mike Blake: [00:05:45] Also, joining us today is Colin Ake. Colin was elected city councilman in 2018 for the City of Woodstock, Georgia, a municipality of southern Cherokee County, the population of just over 30,000. And Woodstock is, oh, I’m going to say about 20 miles north and west of downtown city of Atlanta, maybe a little bit farther than that. Prior to serving in that role, Colin was a—or give me some help here, was it a or the planning and zoning commissioner for the City of Woodstock.
Colin Ake: [00:06:13] I was one of seven.
Mike Blake: [00:06:15] Okay. One of seven. So, a planning and zoning commissioner. When not serving his constituents, Colin is a principal at Georgia Tech VentureLab, where he serves as an instructor on innovation and entrepreneurship. Colin actively works with entrepreneurs and researchers to commercialize research, identify, and secure grant funding, mentor startups, and modify and implement Georgia Tech’s evidence-based entrepreneurship curricula. This includes training and evaluating other instructors in the customer development methodology employed by the I-Corp program and across Georgia Tech.
Colin Ake: [00:06:44] At some point, I’d have you back to talk about because that’s an interesting program. It’s one that I think is unique. Colin holds his bachelor degree in management and his MBA from Georgia Tech. So, regardless of any kind of political discussion here, we have somebody from the University of Georgia and somebody from Georgia Tech, and that’s probably going to create more tension on this program than anything. And if you are from Alabama or Auburn or Florida, Florida State, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Colin, welcome to the program.
Colin Ake: [00:07:10] Thanks, Mike. Thanks for having me.
Mike Blake: [00:07:12] And interestingly, you’re wearing a shirt today that’s yellow with black stitching on that. Is that something that you arranged or?
Colin Ake: [00:07:20] Not specifically because of where Dar’shun went to get her law degree, but I did pick it out.
Mike Blake: [00:07:29] All right. So, let’s jump into it, because we got a ton to cover here. So, Dar’shun, let me let you go first. Ten years ago, you began to serve in your capacity in the Georgia legislature. What motivated you to do that?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:07:49] Well, here, I have a very unique and interesting story. So, I essentially was at the right place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time, depending on which day of the week it is. I was a 27-year old who had just started practicing law for small business litigation firm downtown. And the law firm imploded one summer. And so, they let everybody go. And so, I had started my MBA program. And I had to start my own law firm.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:08:28] So, I actually happened to be down as the capitol because two hours before I got down there to meet with our rep on some sort of marketing for my new firm, the person in my seat decided to run for governor. And so, they were looking for people. And I just so happened to be at the capitol meeting on an unrelated matter. I didn’t even know they would qualify me. And so, the person I was meeting with, I had known since I was a teenager because I worked at the capitol and they asked me what district I was in.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:09:04] And I said, House District 94, which is 94 at the time. And he said, “Well, we need you to run for office.” And of course, I thought he was crazy because I was starting the MBA program and a new law firm. But the long story short is I ended up qualifying 30 minutes before the qualifying ended. So, I actually went from a private citizen to a full-blown candidate unexpectedly overnight. So, I wish I had a better inspirational story about how I worked hard enough and I planned to be in this position, but that is the true story of how it happened.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:09:43] But I ultimately decided to say yes because I knew I eventually wanted to work on state house. I just thought it would be kind of be, you know, sort of when I had a more stable career, when I was older, maybe with a family. But I decided to say yes, because, you know, I grew up in DeKalb County and I represent Dekalb County. I knew that I was more qualified than the people that were running. I already had tremendous support before I even signed the qualification document, so I knew that I could do it. And even though it came unexpectedly and it came fast, I have had a pleasure of serving 54,000 Georgians ever since.
Mike Blake: [00:10:29] Okay. And I have a feeling there are probably other stories that are kind of like that. But Colin, how about you? What’s your story? Did you also sort of fall into public service that way or is that the more of a longer term ambition of yours?
Colin Ake: [00:10:44] No, I kind of fell into it. I grew up in Woodstock. And Woodstock has changed a lot. It has grown massively in the last couple of decades and really become a place that is much different than where I grew up. My wife and I moved back to Woodstock in 2013. And I got involved in a local nonprofit focused on building a trail system just because I want to be able to raise a family somewhere over there. It was a good outdoor recreation opportunity. And from there, I got asked one day to serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission, which was not on my radar, not something I’d been to, not something I was involved in.
Mike Blake: [00:11:26] Did you know anything about planning and zoning?
Colin Ake: [00:11:27] I did not know anything about planning and zoning. But I love learning new things. And so, I dove in and had a lot of fun over the course of about a-year-and-a-half. Planning and zoning in the State of Georgia, most bodies are recommending bodies. In other words, they’re appointed by mayor and city council, but they recommend decisions. And then, the mayor and city council make the final decision. And after about a-year-and-a-half of seeing recommendations go one way or the other and the city council listened to some of them and not listened to others, I decided, well, it might be time to make this vote count if I’m spending the time on it.
Mike Blake: [00:12:05] Like the Christmas song goes, if you’re so smart, you rig up the lights, right?
Colin Ake: [00:12:09] Something like that.
Mike Blake: [00:12:10] So, let’s go into that then. Your first election, talk about running in your first election was like. You, yeah.
Colin Ake: [00:12:21] Yeah.
Mike Blake: [00:12:22] Colin.
Colin Ake: [00:12:22] So, my first election was an experience. So, I ran against an incumbent that was first elected and hadn’t been in office continuously, but was first elected in the year 1990.
Mike Blake: [00:12:35] Wow.
Colin Ake: [00:12:36] So, 2017, I’m running against a guy who has been in office in and out a couple of times, but for for a while. Nice guy. But I wanted a shot. So, I qualified and started running. Somebody else also qualified. So, I had a three-way race and that was quite the experience. It’s a lot of door-knock and it’s a lot of talking to people. It’s a lot of time. It is a great experience. You know, I teach this entrepreneurship stuff at Georgia Tech, right? We teach researchers to go talk to customers and actually understand the people. I mean, knocking on doors is all that, right?
Mike Blake: [00:13:12] Yeah.
Colin Ake: [00:13:12] It is essentially sitting there and that-
Mike Blake: [00:13:13] I hadn’t thought about that. That’s right.
Colin Ake: [00:13:15] … you are learning about your constituents or potential constituents at this point. And what do they care about? Why do they care about those things? And it’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work. You wear through some shoes and it was a good time. I was fortunate enough to avoid a runoff. I won outright. I was a little surprised. You know, I know a lot of people do these victory parties, I didn’t do any of that. I was ready to find out who I was going to be against in the runoff. And I had about four people at my house. And it turned out okay.
Mike Blake: [00:13:51] Well, knowing you, that sounds about right though. You’re kind of a low-key guy, so I don’t see you as a victory lap guy. Dar’shun, how about you? I mean, I know you, sort of, were an overnight qualification story, but what was that first election like? Were you opposed?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:14:09] I was. So, I had four other people was—and my district is largely democratic. So, obviously—general. But I did have four other people in the primary. It is somebody who is very active in the Democratic Party. Somebody who had ran for this three times before. And there’s somebody who was very, very active that have supporters in Rockdale. But I’m just—so, I was the youngest. And so, every time the media printed something, they just ask it without at least letting you know for whatever reason.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:14:53] But I, you know, knocked on doors. I have been involved in politics since I was 18. So, we have to like run a campaign. And so, I had a number of primary voters who were at least three times. And that’s when the primary—fly. It wasn’t in vain like it is now. So, it was a long, hot summer, a very long, hot summer. And I, you know, didn’t quite know how I was able to—start a law firm while knocking on doors. That still felt quite interesting in how I did it—business.
Mike Blake: [00:15:38] Well, let’s, in fact, talk about that, because, you know, one of the things that draws me to this conversation is, you know, where does running for office intersect with business, right? And both of you, in your case, you have a business and Colin has, you know, a career and neither of your post, they’re not designed to have you be a career politician in that respect. But I’m curious, as you are knocking on doors, do you think that that actually helped you kind of understand your market better, Dar’shun?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:16:20] You know, I think it helped me not only to understand my market better, but just to broaden my understanding of just opinions and the issues facing Georgia in general. When I first ran for office, I was—at Rockdale County. And Rockdale County is that county who have very, very active supporters of commerce. And so, you know, on the campaign, so obviously, I was engaged with those two views. But it helped me that I did have a business background to sort of, I think, connect with people on the campaign trail at these retail or business centers.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:17:06] And I am accused more than I would like about being one of the more full-business Democrats. But I think it served me well, because I am able to understand sort of the base of my calling, which is labor and balancing with the people that I represent, which are obviously founders of this. So, I definitely learned a lot about that market, but around Georgia issues as well. It was a really great opportunity to just meet people and hear different views. I really enjoyed the campaign. I know it’s hard, but I learned a lot of their stories.
Mike Blake: [00:17:47] So, Colin, my next questions for you is, you know, as you are preparing to run, have you had professional mentors or advisors in your life that maybe, you know, have helped you along the way to get to where you’ve been professionally? Did you also rely on them as you contemplated this political step? And if so, were they helpful? If not, then where did you kind of find that expertise?
Colin Ake: [00:18:11] Yeah, it’s a great question. So, you know, I tend to be the student of, you know, whatever world I’m going into. I worked with a bunch of different entrepreneurs from a bunch of different backgrounds and bunch different industries, right? And so, that’s taught me to take advice from the people who have experienced something before and go find people that can share something with me that, you know, is based off that experience. I certainly had conversations with business mentors or people that I worked with previously. I’m about running for office. I got encouragement to do so.
Colin Ake: [00:18:45] But of course, you know, if you’ve not run a campaign, you generally go well. But I’ve never run a campaign and that’s kind of, you know, where that stops. I had some help from some friends that had experienced parsing data and find someone that they can parse data well. And go grab some voter data and, you know, data’s data. You got to know what you’re looking for, but once you know what you’re looking for, it’s fairly easy to pull together a strategy.
Mike Blake: [00:19:13] Indeed, I’ve heard that superior command of data was a big factor in enabling the president to win in 2016, right? It wasn’t whether he’s a better candidate or not, but this was a lot of analysis. And I think there’s some truth to this that he and his team just paid more attention and just did better with parsing data.
Colin Ake: [00:19:36] My experience has been that the data certainly gives you an edge. And it helps inform whatever strategy you’re developing as a team. Dramatically different to run for president than it is to run for city council for the City of Woodstock.
Mike Blake: [00:19:49] Sure.
Colin Ake: [00:19:51] For the small business owners that are out there that are thinking about getting involved in local government, at either the local or the county or the state level, it’s really easy to not even be—you know, you don’t have to be a presidential level data parser to make a difference in a small race.
Mike Blake: [00:20:12] Yeah. And in fact, interestingly enough, there is one of these rare cases where a meaningful office was won by one vote, a Boston city council office, after their fourth recount was just decided by one vote with over 70,000 thousand votes involved. So-
Colin Ake: [00:20:30] That’s fairly narrow.
Mike Blake: [00:20:31] There’s probably going to be a lawsuit, too. One vote, you know, you got to believe that’s gonna be challenged, I would think. But still-
Colin Ake: [00:20:39] Hanging chad somewhere.
Mike Blake: [00:20:40] Yes. So, it does happen. So, Dar’shun, how about you? I suspect, but you tell me. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. What about your mentors and advisors? Have they been the same for you along the way in business as in politics or have you found that they’ve been different?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:21:01] So, my sort of mentors in business have always been my parents. So, I grew up in an entrepreneurial household. So, I love business owners, but typically, minority female founders and Black-owned founders share sort of the challenges that they went through. So, my parents have kind of taught me a lot about business. And, you know, I have people that I sort of look up to. I wouldn’t say that I have a formal mentorship with anyone. And that’s probably because, believe it or not, I’m—about it. So, you know, I just had not gotten opportunity to ask somebody to do that mentorship. But I am because one of the things that I added to my success and firm is I just recently got a series of job life investment-
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:22:05] So, I am intentional about how people have been successful in the state for a very, very long time with that aspect of it. But political-wise, you know, as a politician, I value amongst anything else—good and anything like that is people who are persistent in their belief and that is true. So, one of the reasons that one of my best friends is a partner is because we are very, very truthful with one another. And because above all else, we are very persistent in our belief. So, for me, you know, I will look up to or admire anybody in the political world that is consistent in their belief and persistent about it.
Mike Blake: [00:22:59] So, you’ve been in public service now for a decade. Really remarkable. And which means you’ve won five elections. Again, remarkable. How have you found that’s impacted your legal practice and your consulting practice?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:23:20] So, obviously, in the beginning, since I was an overnight candidate, from a law firm perspective, I wasn’t prepared to be a full-blown candidate. So, I think that was the hardest time because I didn’t have the preparation. I literally went from a private citizen to a full-blown candidate overnight. So, those early years are very, very rare. I’ve done a very good job, indeed, of managing it.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:23:54] And so, one of the things that I do, particularly during this upcoming legislative session, is I’m very, very good about saying no. Obviously, I have about 31,000 followers on this and everybody, you know, wants to pick my brain or hear a story or just advice about this. And I just say, “Hey, listen, I’m very good about saying no.” But the other thing is I try to focus on policies that I have an expertise into it, which is capital label, security work, investment, strategies, and things like that.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:24:32] So, it makes the work a little, not only more fun or more engaging, but a little easier to just pass the learning curve as you’re not spending as much time on it, you’re just focused on things that you really couldn’t deal with. So, over the years, I’ve been able to really find that balance. And I think that it served not only me will, but the State of Georgia will to have somebody focusing on policies that is also a part of their day job.
Mike Blake: [00:25:06] And Colin, how about you? You haven’t been in service quite as long, but it looks certainly long enough to have an impact. How have you found that’s impacted your career?
Colin Ake: [00:25:13] Yeah. It’s got a time impact for sure. You know, juggling multiple responsibilities is a challenge. You have to be very good about saying no.
Mike Blake: [00:25:25] And you’re moonlighting. Both of you are basically moonlighting when it comes down to it.
Colin Ake: [00:25:28] And, you know, there’s beauty and there’s challenge in citizen legislature and in citizen governance, but there’s balance that comes from having those multiple perspectives and experience. You have to find things that are important to you and prioritize them. You have to say no to a lot of things. People ask me what my hobbies are. My hobby is serving the citizens. You know, there are no other hobbies.
Colin Ake: [00:25:53] I’ve got a family, I’ve got a real job, and I’ve got an elected office. And that’s the majority of my time. So, you know, it changes things because it gives you different perspectives on life. You know, we don’t manage a budget anywhere near the size that Dar’shun deals with. This is, you know, at the city level, it’s a much smaller world. You know, our form of government, we have a city manager that’s full-time, essentially the CEO.
Colin Ake: [00:26:25] And we act as, you know, kind of a part-time board. But there are infinite subjects at any point time you can go learn a lot about, right? There are people who have built their careers off of public safety response, out of public works, out of community development. And to be a student of each of those games, enough where you’re informed, but not enough where you’re unable to focus on other things as, you know, you just have to juggle it.
Mike Blake: [00:26:50] So, the question I want to ask both of you, I’ll give Colin first crack at this, is there’s what I would call a romantic notion out there. And I used to have this. I’ve moved away from this view myself. But there’s a romantic notion that if you could just run government the way you’d run a private business, everything would just be hunky dory. And I’m not sure that our attempts to do that have worked out well, but I’m willing to be educated otherwise. Colin, in your experience, is that a realistic expectation? Is it partially realistic? Where do you kind of come down on that?
Colin Ake: [00:27:30] I’m going to say and I am making up an answer on the spot here. I think it depends on the level of government. Local government, small municipality is dramatically different from large municipality, it’s dramatically different from county government, and dramatically different from state government, which none of that, you know, is nearly as complex as the federal government. When you’re in a small municipality or, you know, we’re just over 30,000 people, it’s growing fast, there are elements that certainly translate.
Colin Ake: [00:28:05] You have HR challenges, you have budget challenges. So, there’s elements that translate. I don’t think it’s necessarily the same, right? Because you’re dealing with a lot of things like social contracts between neighbors and zoning issues that are really personal for people and really come down to, you know, interpretation of and belief in basic rights and principles. And so, there’s elements that translate, there’s elements that don’t translate even at the local level. But I don’t know if at the local level there’s more of it or less of it. What’s your your thought, Dar’shun?
Mike Blake: [00:28:43] Dar’shun, where do you come down on this?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:28:46] Yeah. So, it’s interesting. I just had finished going to a retreat with the technology advancements in Georgia. And my colleague, Joe, does a lot of technology work. He said, when he first got elected, which was last year, he said, “I have the misconception that government is—like a business. And boy, did I get a big surprise?” And I think if that is right and that—the problem with running government like a business is that their end goal is different, right?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:29:20] So, for businesses, this is representing corporations like I do, their first responsibility is a job upholder, which is to make profits, right? That is the end goal. There is the fiduciary duty that’s involved there. With government, obviously, it’s very, very different. The end goal is uphold constitution, improving for the public safety and welfare of their citizens. So, I think, the common point, you are going to have some-
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:29:53] You know, sometimes, when it works well, like under Georgia, we have a 26-billion dollar budget and we are not allowed to print money or borrow money like the federal government is. So, every year, we have to balance our budget like I effectively—but at the same time, you know, we were making those various techs and things that the priorities are going to be very, very different. Because it is a government entity, I suppose they have really different budgeting.
Mike Blake: [00:30:23] You know, that’s an interesting point. I want to kind of underscore something that in terms of that capacity to borrow. And in fact, most private businesses can borrow at some point, right? Even if you’re a sole practitioner, you could put a $20000 Mac Pro on your credit card if you wanted to. I’m not sure what you’d do with it, but you could certainly do that. Whereas, you know, as you said, if you’re not in the federal government, generally speaking, there is no borrowing capacity. You balance the budget, end of discussion or you just run out of money.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:31:03] Yeah. And, you know, that’s one of the things that obviously, the—this upcoming legislative session. And those conversation is just going to be different than if I was having a conversation with a board that I represented in the business.
Mike Blake: [00:31:22] So, has there been at some point, Dar’shun, where you’re concerned about there being a negative impact in your business? I mean, you know, we’re taught that we should be not discussing politics and business and generally speaking from the except of some very close business associates, I don’t entertain that discussion. You can’t avoid that because you’re out there and you got bumper stickers and you got signs on people’s house corners and so forth. You know, have there been points in which, you know, maybe that’s negatively impacted your business? Because there are people who look at you as a Democrat and say, “You know what, I’m just not going to do business with a Democrat, end of discussion.”
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:32:06] Yeah. That’s very possible. You know, I don’t have any empirical data that somebody has done that. But two things to your point. So, the first thing is I am an oddball and that I am not one of those people that think that we shouldn’t discuss policy. I think that’s the reason. Otherwise, because you don’t have those horrible sessions, that dinner on the table, so I am free and open—probably to my social media rather than dinner table.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:32:39] So, I am probably an anomaly and that I think it will never be obviously the factors of—it had taught me to be more tolerant of other people’s opinions. And so, I just think holding it up doesn’t serve anybody. So, I’m definite in my belief in that respect. But the second thing is, as I mentioned before, I tend to be one that criticized on both sides. But particularly, for Democrats, because I do understand and relate to business owners and founders, what they might do for the underlying labor movement.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:33:16] And that’s not to say that, you know, I’m against labor or anything like that. It’s just that I bring a different perspective. And so, I think knowing that and because of the things that I do as far as policy and collaborations and things like that, people might know that I’m a Democrat. But when it comes to business, particularly when it comes to technology, really, the people are more willing to—to me because of my support of businesses on the side.
Mike Blake: [00:33:55] So, let me switch gears here, because I think there’s an important question. And somebody out there is thinking about this question, I guarantee it. And that question is this. Colin, let me put it to you first. Somebody is thinking, “Wow. If I could just run for office, that would really help raise my profile.” What a great resume build or what a great thing to put on LinkedIn. And maybe it even gives you some other opportunities as well. And we’ll talk about conflicts of interest in a minute. But just generally speaking, you know, in your mind, is it worth running for office to help your career?
Colin Ake: [00:34:37] To me, no. There’s different opinions on this, obviously.
Mike Blake: [00:34:41] Right.
Colin Ake: [00:34:41] I think it’s worth running for office if you want to invest yourself in something and you want to learn a different perspective. Sure. I am sure there are examples of people who’ve gone into politics and their career has blossomed as a result. But at the local level, right? To me, I want counterparts on council, I want counterparts on the county commission that are dedicated to making the place that we live a better place, right?
Colin Ake: [00:35:12] And they come with a desire to invest their time and their resources and their energy in making those decisions that are never easy. And that’s a much better motivator to me than someone who’s there for them. It’s about a group. It’s about, you know, building consensus amongst people that don’t necessarily always see eye-to-eye and understanding nuances of issues and finding ways to come to agreements. Like that’s what it’s about. It’s not about, you know, personal gain.
Mike Blake: [00:35:50] Dar’shun, how about you? If somebody is thinking about running for office because they think it would help them personally or from a business perspective, is it worthwhile to have that thought process?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:36:08] I think that is probably the biggest myth besides—that I have heard with respect to public office. Well, because you want to prove and just have the heart to prove it. That I will tell you personally, one of the biggest, most helpful things that people just adviced that I got before I entered the legislature or that before I entered the legislature, it came from my predecessor, who was a lawyer, a legislator.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:36:40] And for those that don’t know, lawyer legislators are a dying breed. When I first got into office, we were about almost 25% of the general assembly and now, we’re down to about 17%. So, you might think that’s not bad, but it is what it is. So, that is—in the general assembly. But historically, we had less than that number. So, this lawyer legislator said it and put it ever so distinctly and it has been every bit of truth, is that it’s not a matter of if we will lose revenue and income in this position, it’s a matter of how much.
Mike Blake: [00:37:26] Okay.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:37:27] And every time a lawyer legislator is thinking about running for office, even if they have zero motives, I always give them the same advice. Your revenue and you income will go down. It’s not a matter of if it is going to go down, the question is how much. And a lot of that had to do with the fact that, you know, we especially engage in policy making for the first few months of the year, right? But then, there’s also, you know, possible conflict of interest, particularly if you work with bigger firms that might come about.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:38:04] People think we just work for four months out of the year. But I can tell you that I work no less than about three hours outside of session a week on legislature side. So, you know, you can be one of those legislators that just shows up and doesn’t advice anything and never say anything and just for like a check. I mean, that is, you know, “Why don’t you show up and vote for the budget?” Constitutionally, you’ve done what it is that you’re required to do on this constitution.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:38:32] But most people, you know, don’t want to do that and they wanted to be re-elected, so it does become a full-time desk job during the session and then, the other part is the time we’re out, it’s more of a part-time job. So, I would caution anybody who thinks that this is better, it’s going to raise your brand, for sure, but if you think that is going to translate to dollars, I would just be cautious about this and that it’s going to have a correlation.
Mike Blake: [00:39:00] So, Dar’shun, you brought something up that I want to jump on, because I think it makes sense to talk about here. And it’s another critical question we got to cover, which is I have to imagine there are many opportunities, particularly in your position, for conflict of interest to arise. How do you manage that?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:39:22] So, it actually is not as much of a conflict as you would think. So, because there are citizen legislators, right? Everybody knows we have a full-time job and we have to work. So, if I work for a bigger firm and I had a client of the firm that was advocated for a deal, that would be, of course, sort of conflict of interest right there. But because I’m a solo and because I am an attorney, you know, constitutionally, nobody can prevent me from practicing law, because just by law—right.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:40:06] So, you know, I consult on reviews that we have and things like that because that’s literally my job as a lawyer. But there are sometimes that the legislature will specifically set the legislation that we can’t engage in particular firms, particularly AJC—which was cannabis bill that we passed for the—growing the cannabis. I have never in my mind used to being down there seeing legislation that specifically sits in what I call a poison pill.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:40:47] And that it specifically prohibits legislators, former and current legislators, from investing in the cannabis business past 5% of an investment. And that was put in there for a long, drawn out reason that I know about. But anyway, it does prohibit. So, for example, I started an investment group that is going to participate in investing in the supply chain for cannabis. Well, I started the group, but I only serve as general counsel.
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:41:23] I’m not investing into it. I’m not putting any money into it. I’m not, you know, having input on the pitch process, in the investment process. Just because there is that specific proposition in there and I don’t want to be on the front page of AJC. So, there are times when the conflict is written into either the law or they probably prohibit us from engaging in it. But because, you know, it’s literally my profession, I’m generally allowed to sort of practice law and give advice, even though I might vote on this bill.
Mike Blake: [00:42:05] So, Colin, I’ll ask you a different question as we head to the end here. You know, how does sort of having a job and doing what you do alongside being a city councilman inform how you vote and how you propose and pursue policy?
Colin Ake: [00:42:29] It’s a good question. So, how does having a job help inform policy? So, I’m an entrepreneur turned academic, right? My day job is down at Georgia Tech. As such, I get access to a ton of people who are really smart in any given field. You know, we’re very fortunate to have a school of city and regional planning that is really good at pumping out good planners. There’s people down there that I can learn from on a technical topic. There’s a balance there, right? There’s obviously people with deep expertise that we can learn from and turn that into knowledge that informs policy.
Colin Ake: [00:43:18] There’s also a balance of, you know, when I’m at Georgia Tech, my Georgia Tech hat is on. And when I go off the clock there and go to City of Woodstock, my City of Woodstock hat has to be on. So, it’s a great question. For local policy, it’s different, I think, because local policy is often about things like sign code or zoning regulations or, you know, it gets into the minutiae really fast. And it’s not necessarily, you know, directly the same thing that I do with it at Georgia Tech. So, you know, I’ve got all sorts of ideas on an entrepreneurship policy or policy that could impact that world, the professional world that I deal with, but it’s not the same scale of policy that we deal with at the city level.
Mike Blake: [00:44:08] So, if I’m understanding correctly, in reality, you’re kind of in two parallel worlds that don’t necessarily meet a whole lot.
Colin Ake: [00:44:15] They don’t meet a whole lot.
Mike Blake: [00:44:18] Okay. We are running out of time here. And I want to thank you both so much for joining us. We could talk a lot longer about this, but we have to let you get back to serving your constituents. Dar’shun, how can people contact you if they may have an interest in running for office and want to learn more about it and why to do it and maybe why not to do it?
Dar’Shun Kendrick: [00:44:41] Yeah, sure. Anybody can follow me on social media. Beware, though, I am very vocal. So, just like yourself. But it’s just Dar’shun and Kendrick, D-A-R-S-H-U-N, Kendrick, K-E-N-D-R-I-C-K on Instagram and LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter. So, people can, you know, invite me on there. I’m a millennial and I will give out my cellphone number, but that might be a little dangerous. So, if you can contact me on social media or either email me, just dkendrick@kendrickfor, F-O-R, georgia, Georgia—.com, then I will try my best to get back with you if we can if I’m not very, very busy. And short messages and questions.
Mike Blake: [00:45:33] Very good. And Colin, how about you?.
Colin Ake: [00:45:37] Email me at email@example.com, C-A-K-E, @woodstockga.gov. More than happy to lend some thoughts. My encouragement would be find a way to get involved in your local community and invest your time and energy somewhere near you. It doesn’t have to be an elected office, but we need people that are engaged, that are giving back, and that are trying to make the world a better place.
Mike Blake: [00:46:05] Okay, that’s gonna wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Dar’shun Kendrick and Colin Ake so much for joining us and sharing their expertise with us. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week, so please tune in so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy these podcasts, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake, our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision podcast.