Las Vegas Sun

June 19, 2019

Currently: 91° — Complete forecast

Sisolak’s chief of staff credits North Carolina university for start in politics

Hillary for Nevada Campaign Office Opens

L.E. Baskow

Political director Michelle White speaks about the Hillary for Nevada campaign and what others can do to to get involved as they open their first official Nevada office in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 9, 2015.

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Michelle White's journey in politics to become the new chief of staff for the governor of Nevada started in a set of classrooms in High Point, N.C.

White, a Democratic Party political organizer and campaign strategist, was named the top staff member for new Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak at the first of this year. This past fall, Sisolak won the race for Nevada's top political post and became the state's first Democratic governor in 20 years.

White headed up the governor's transition team before being named chief of staff.

As White serves the governor in his role running state government, she relies on skills and insight she gained as a political science major at High Point University. The 32-year-old native of Massachusetts said the diversity of people she met at High Point University and the insight she gained from professors provided her with the basis for her success in the political arena at a young age.

White said that she grew up in a community near Boston, where most people see politics through a Democratic or liberal prism. When she arrived on the HPU campus 15 years ago, White said she came to know and respect students of varied political backgrounds and viewpoints.

"It allowed me to be in a place that took me out of the political bubble I was in," she told The High Point Enterprise. "I was in classes with people who were on the opposing side of the aisle as myself. We had really constructive debates and conversations, and it changed my mind on some things. It forced me to look at things in a different way and made me better."

White said she credits her experiences at High Point University with allowing her to succeed in Nevada politics, where much of the electorate consists of independents.

She owes her decision to enroll at High Point University to her older brother, who chose to attend Elon University.

"Two New England kids ended up in North Carolina," she quipped.

When she traveled to Burlington with her parents to visit her brother, she became endeared with North Carolina.

"I went and visited High Point and fell in love with the campus and the people there," she said.

High Point University political science professor Mark Setzler, who taught White, said he's not surprised by her success. Setzler, whom White considers a mentor, sent her a personal note earlier this year when she was named chief of staff by Sisolak.

"She was an interesting student because she was incredibly capable," Setzler told The Enterprise.

The experience a tHigh Point University has served White well after she moved to Nevada following graduation and became engrossed in state politics.

"Overall, I think there are more people who fall in the middle somewhere. They are really moderate, more than anything else," White told The Enterprise in a phone interview from the Nevada state capital in Carson City.

White has advanced quickly in Nevada political circles since initially moving to Las Vegas after graduation from HPU to take a political organizing post.

She served as a strategist for Nevada state legislative campaigns before becoming executive director to the State Senate Democratic Caucus. Three years ago, she served as deputy state director of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in the state. Clinton carried Nevada while losing the election to President Donald Trump.

Setzler said White's career so far reflects her talent and commitment.

"As a student, she was really active in just all kinds of hands-on politics," he said. "The reason she's risen so quickly is she did all of the hard work."