Finding a home in government
By Erica Naone
Adele McClure (B.S.’11/B) describes her work as outreach and policy director for the office of Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax as “a position I never could have imagined myself in when I was a child.”
McClure took a circuitous path to her current career. As a result of poverty, repeated evictions and periods of homelessness in her family, she attended three high schools her freshman year. She graduated and eventually became the first person in her family to attend college, majoring in economics at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business.
“VCU provided me with a lot of opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have had,” she says, referring to scholarships that helped her with tuition, clubs that offered a variety of experiences and academics that laid the foundation for her skills in data management and policy creation.
After graduating in 2011, McClure started working for the Association of the United States Army and then moved to the International Monetary Fund after three years. Prior to her appointment as policy director in Fairfax’s office, she was a senior analyst for Deloitte Consulting and volunteered in the evenings with various campaigns, boards and community organizations to address issues such as mental health care, homelessness and access for people with disabilities.
McClure met Fairfax in 2013 while he was running for Virginia attorney general. She attended a Democratic straw poll event, an ad-hoc, unofficial vote that can help candidates determine what stances are popular among their constituents and which candidates have momentum. Having never heard of Fairfax at the time, she selected someone else on the ballot. Fairfax spotted the ballot and asked her what it would take to change her vote.
In response, she asked him three questions about policies affecting vulnerable populations. Though neither she nor Fairfax remembers exactly what the questions were, his responses changed her mind. When he finished answering, McClure said, “Not only will I change my vote, I’ll volunteer for your campaign.”
That marked the beginning of a period of intense work. McClure threw herself into her new volunteer role, working “as many hours as possible.” She recalls finishing up with her day job, taking an Uber straight to a meeting and working until midnight. “It felt like a 24-hour schedule,” McClure says.
Despite the hectic schedule and large workload, she was energized by the prospect of making a difference.
She says she was honored when she received her appointment in January 2018.
“Now I have the opportunity to shape policy discussion around issues that the lieutenant governor cares deeply about, issues that impact the lives of all Virginians,” she says.
In her work as outreach and policy director, McClure has learned about the different issues facing Virginians in various regions. She’s also drawn on her own experiences. “I thought it was important that I have personal experience with evictions,” she says, explaining that she witnessed the role of eviction in the cycle of poverty and had family members who have never recovered from the personal and financial effects of losing their homes.
Increasingly, the impact of McClure’s work is being noticed. Forbes magazine recently named her to its Top 30 Under 30 in the category of law and politics, citing her leading role in developing state-level policies, the statewide roundtables she organized to encourage stakeholders to discuss the issue of high eviction rates in Virginia and her participation in Arlington, Virginia’s plan to end homelessness.
Though she hadn’t shared her personal struggles with many people during her time at VCU, McClure became more open about what she had been through after graduation. An article and podcast detailing her experiences with homelessness were shocking to many of her friends, she says. “I thought it was important for people to hear that no matter your situation, you can come up from it,” McClure explains. “There are obviously barriers, but it’s possible.”
This article expands on a brief that appeared in the fall 2018 VCU Alumni magazines. “Putting Their Degrees to Work” offers a glimpse into the work lives of nine alumni who have followed their degrees to careers with transformative, creative and adventurous elements. To read about the alumni featured alongside McClure, view the full issue. (Free account required to access the magazine.)