Meet Beth: Our New Managing Director, Campaign Whiz, and Family Caregiver

Meet Beth: Our New Managing Director, Campaign Whiz, and Family Caregiver
Blog Stories Meet Beth: Our New Managing Director, Campaign Whiz, and Family Caregiver

We’re so excited to welcome Beth Shipp as our new managing director. Beth brings a wealth of campaign management experience to our work, as well as a joyful and inquisitive view on our campaign, and a generous spirit and willingness to connect and be a thought partner to everyone on our team. Check out our Q+A with her to learn how she came to our work, her personal connection to care, and what she thinks about UFC!

Tell us a bit about your background.

I’ve always considered myself a campaign hack, and have been working on campaigns in one way or another for the last two decades plus. I started out working for U.S. Senate, gubernatorial, and congressional campaigns across the country. After that, I felt like I’d been on the road long enough, and joined NARAL and was political director there for ten years.

So your work is mostly in the political side of campaigns?

Well, actually, after working at NARAL, I wanted to reevaluate where I was at in my career and asked myself if I was in the space I wanted to be in — I wanted to make sure I was advancing the issues and causes that were most important to me. So I joined LPAC, the Political Action Committee that builds the power of lesbian and queer women, as their executive director, and learned that I really love working with teams, especially younger, less-seasoned nonprofit professionals. I feel like I’ve been really lucky to be able to succeed in this business, and I want to be able to raise up the next generation of great leaders, especially young women and people of color who might have a harder time moving up and leading in the progressive, political and nonprofit spaces we operate in. My goal is to do everything I can to help them take the reins and lead on their vision for what progressive, humanistic socially and racially just organizations should look like in America.

That’s a really noble goal! It really sounds like you’ve done it all — any area that you feel is your area of expertise?

I often call myself a jack of no trades, master of some — I’ve done almost everything but my true passion and what I’m best at is in seeing how teams come together and what they need to work better together. After so many years working in political and nonprofit organizations, I realized there was a huge need that arises in these spaces when their leadership goes on leave — who helps them steer the ship? So that’s how I started my consulting business, which is built on being able to step in and help organizations continue to move forward while their leadership takes advantage of the leave they really should be taking — like personal medical leave or paid family leave, so they can make sure to take care of themselves but still have the peace of mind that their work is continuing and will be advanced for them when they return.

In 2017, I served as interim vice president for Faith in Public Life for five months when the vice president went on paid family leave for the birth of his son. I felt really lucky to be able to step in for him, manage his team, and make sure he was doing okay and was still connected to the work while being able to take the time he needed to be with his family. Then earlier this year I acted as interim campaigns director for PL+US, when their campaigns director went on paid family leave for the birth of her first child, and I was able to step in and make sure her team and her work continued from a campaign perspective.

Your business of providing support for those going on leave really ties in to our work. How do you feel like the way you look at advocacy work has evolved over your career?

Honestly, after Trump was elected, I decided I didn’t just want to be in a job that felt like I was pushing paper and not actually creating change — so I joined MoveOn for the 2018 election cycle, and worked on a down ballot program to uplift progressive champions running for state and local offices — from school board to governor. Most of these candidates were who were young, people of color, LGBTQ, or women running for office for the first time. Of the 44 endorsed candidates in my region (the southeast U.S.), 73% were people of color, 64% were women, and 16% were self-identified as LGBTQ. They all were bold and will be the people who lead this country to be the America we envision. When I was at MoveOn, I learned about Caring Across Generations (Ai-jen is part of the MoveOn family), and the great work this team is doing to disrupt and change how we think about caregiving and receiving in the U.S.

Coincidentally, around the time of Trump’s election, my dad’s health began to decline pretty steadily. My parents lived in rural Montana, and I lived in Maryland, thousands of miles away. In 2016, my dad took a fall in the middle of the night. My mom couldn’t get him off the floor, and we knew that she couldn’t care for him at home without help. In rural Montana, in-home care like the kind my dad would need is expensive and not often covered by Medicare. We had to have the really difficult conversation at that point that millions of American families face: how can we care for him? My mom made the really tough decision to move him into an assisted living home where he would be safe and cared for. Even so, there were many times we thought we were going to lose him — that year, I got a call from my mom that he wasn’t going to last much longer, that he’d stopped eating. I hopped in the car to drive cross country to see him, but when he heard I was coming, he started eating and drinking again! This began the cycle that many of us go through when our parents age — he’s gone through so many ups and downs over the past three years, and even though he’s doing okay physically, he’s not all there mentally anymore.

Then last year, my mom had to have hip-replacement surgery. The only options were for my brother and I to figure out how to care for my mom in her home in Montana, or for her to stay by herself in a rehab facility for 6 weeks while she recovered. As many of us do, we chose to care for her as a family, and I was lucky to be able to take that time away from my life in Maryland to be with my mom in Montana while she recovered (at a record pace I might add!). But so many people in America don’t have that choice like my family did.

Wow. This really speaks to the need in our country for Universal Family Care.

Totally. I can’t help but feel like, if my dad could have gotten care at home, where he was comfortable and able to be with my mother, that he might be doing better today. And I’m not sure what my mom would have done if I hadn’t been lucky enough to be able to take time away to care for her — but we can’t rely on luck when it comes to the health, well-being, and dignity of our loved ones.

Our country can do so much better than what we’re doing now, and that’s why I’m so excited about UFC, about what CAG is doing to make that a reality for all Americans, not just the wealthy and privileged few who can afford to pay for care out of pocket, I want care to be available, accessible, and affordable for my mom and dad in rural Montana, I want it for my partner’s family in Yorktown, VA, I want it for every person in this country: rich, poor, POC, straight, gay, everyone! We have got to do better by everybody in this country when it comes to caregiving.

Right on!