Reverend Leah Daughtry is the woman behind the Democratic National Convention (DNC), one of the country’s most anticipated events in politics. As Chief Executive Officer of the DNC and the only person to hold the position twice, Daughtry has carved her own path to success in the political arena, while reaching back to create opportunities for young people to reach their full potential.
As the daughter of community leader and pastor Reverend Herbert Daughtry, she’s certainly no stranger to activism. Black Enterprise caught up with Daughtry to discuss her career path and the upcoming Democratic National Convention, taking place from July 25-28, in Philadelphia, P.A.
BE: Throughout the span of your career, what is the work that you are most proud of?
Daughtry: The underlying theme for me is my engagement with young people, especially women. Supporting folks as they navigate up their way up the ladder; this is what Rev. Jesse Jackson did for me. He used to say, “When you climb the ladder, you have the responsibility to swing somebody through and open the door wider, to make sure that people have more space than you have.”
At one time, I took a break from politics and ran a mentoring program for young women ages eight to 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y. called Sister to Sister. Their mothers were infected with HIV and becoming incapacitated—these were the days before “the cocktail” [combination antiretroviral therapy drug regimen] that helped people live longer. My girls were all adults and their moms have since passed away, but all of them have managed to go to college and make new lives for themselves. So to watch them grow up is very gratifying, and it’s ultimately the work I am most proud of.
BE: With the DNC a few days away, what’s a top priority for you right now?
Daughtry: I am responsible for the planning and execution of our convention; that is everything from how the delegates will get to the location and get around, to where the media workspace will be.
Every day is different. We’ve been planning for the last 18 months, but now we’re into execution stage. We’re doing everything from getting the stage and credentials ready, to dealing with logistical challenges.
BE: What do you think is different about this election year?
Daughtry: In 2008, the use of social media was not as prevalent. So being able to connect with voters through Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat creates a new dynamic for us as we reach the voters. People are getting news in different ways, so you have to take all of that into account when planning.
BE: Considering you’ve been appointed to the CEO position twice, what are the key qualities that make you the best person for this role?
Daughtry: I’m very organized. I am an obsessive list maker. I also understand the party; I was the DNC Chief of Staff for Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean, and I also worked for Ron Brown. So, I understand how the party functions and what the key levers are in the political space. So, by having the party knowledge transfer over to the convention knowledge, I am able to navigate the politics in ways that a typical event planner probably cannot. People also know my reputation for building teams, so they are comfortable with me.