The Former Political Consultant Will Be Guest Speaker at Martin City’s Third Thursday Event
By Diane Krauthamer
You may know her name from her past political pursuits, or you may know her as a published author. Kansas City local Annie Presley has proven to be a success in taking on crucial roles in national political campaigns—even serving on the (George W.) Bush for President campaign as National Deputy Director of Finance from 1999-2001. After some 30 years working in fundraising and political consulting, Presley is now the co-author of three recently-published books that deal with the issues surrounding childhood, marriage or death.
The Martin City Telegraph recently had a chance to speak with Presley about how she got into politics, how she got out of politics, and why she chose to retire and move onto a career in writing.
Martin City Telegraph (MCT): Can you tell me a little about background? Are you from Kansas City originally?
Annie Presley (AP): I grew up in Springfield, MO.—I’m a hillbilly—and went to Mizzou, and graduated Mizzou and came to Kansas City, and never left.
MCT: When you first came to Kansas City, did you start as a political consultant? Can you tell me more about your background and how you got involved in politics?
AP: I started volunteering in high school for John Danforth and [Christopher] “Kit” Bond and John Ashcroft. In Springfield, which is a very conservative area, they were very, very popular. My mom died when I was a kid and my grandparents taught me how to read the newspaper. They would have me sit down and read, then discuss what was in the paper. We always gravitated toward political articles. I was instantly intrigued by the whole concept of politics.
Then when I was in high school we had a babysitter who worked for then-Governor Bond’s campaign. So [frequently] I would go with her to the campaign headquarters and lick stamps, stuff envelopes, answer the phones. I continued volunteering through college and well into my initial career in Kansas City. Ultimately I got into politics full time on the campaign side as a professional fundraiser. So it just was a very organic shift.
MCT: What was the first campaign that you worked on as a fundraiser?
AP: The first one was Bond for Governor, and that was his re-elect in ’76, which he’d lost to Joseph P. Teasdale. I volunteered extensively during my junior year of high school. Then he ran for re-elect when I was in college. They came to Columbia all the time. They would call me and say ‘Can you help with whatever…talking to people in the parking lot, or gathering up students to meet the governor…,’ and I just never said ‘no,’ truthfully. They just kept calling me and asking me to do more and more and I liked it.I t was fun and came naturally to me.
So then the first paid position was Kit’s first re-elect to the United States Senate, and that was ’91/’92. So I spent a good 14 to 15 years as a volunteer.
MCT: Can you talk a little more about some of the highlights of your career in the political arena?
AP: I had a lot of fun, I had a lot of professional success. When I was Kit’s finance director in the ‘91/’92 race, there were very few Republicans who won nationally, I think two or three—that was when George Herbert Walker Bush lost re-elect to Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. It was a big deal that we won. And I was the only female finance director in the nation. I was fairly young then, in my 30s. So that was great.
Then I started my fundraising company. I never really wanted to work for the government, and I never did. Instead of going onto his official staff, and becoming a federal government employee, I chose to start The McKellar Group, which does professional fundraising.
In the course of McKellar Group fundraising I did work for Danforth, Kit and John Ashcroft. We used Karl Rove for our direct mail for Kit and John in ‘91/’92.
We shopped John [Ashcroft] around for president and there wasn’t enough interest for him to mount a legitimate presidential campaign. Karl [Rove] called and said ‘I think I’m going to shop around George W.’ He was then the governor of Texas. So I did an event for him here in Kansas City and there was a lot of enthusiasm for him. We found the same was true in St. Louis. They decided to run. I got a call inviting me to Austin to be on the campaign. So I moved in April 1999 to Austin. I worked all the way through the inaugural. It was very exciting. I was the National Deputy Finance Director, so I did a lot of traveling with the team and with the candidates. I raised a lot of money all over the country.
MCT: Did you continue on in politics after that?
AP: I continued to volunteer and work for different people. I actually chose to go to New York after the inaugural. I was hired by a huge Wall Street firm called UBS and I took a huge job: Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Charitable Giving. Regrettably I was living there on 9/11. It was a very, very hard time. I got super homesick and decided to come home. So I didn’t last very long in New York, only about 18 months.
But I reinvented the McKellar Group as a consultancy. I continued to do political fundraising and enhanced McKellar Consulting to the point where I could match up work with non-profits and politics…I began to marry politics and non-profits together, which were really my favorite aspects of life. That’s what I did on Wall Street. That’s what I had been doing most of my life. So I just continued doing it in a little bit of a different way.
MCT: So now you’re basically a full-time publisher and an author. Can you tell me some more about that?
AP: Well, Christy [Howard] and I were working together at the McKellar Group. She was called away one day from work to the hospital to tell her mother goodbye. So Christy raced off. The next day she comes in, she’s got this huge notebook full of stuff, and said ‘My mom made it! She lives!’ I said ‘Well what are you doing with all that stuff?’ and she said ‘It’s gotta be updated.’ So, we kind of went through her book and I said ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book about leaving information behind for your heirs.’ That’s when we decided to just go ahead and tackle this project.
In “Read This… When I’m Dead” we wanted to change the conversation about death and dying. Our culture is reluctant to discuss death and dying…. We want people to talk about it. When that kind of stuff is written down, then it’s just there, and you can go and say ‘Oh, here’s what she wants.’ It’s easier when you’re in that stage of making plans and trying to keep it together, and just processing death.
So then we decided to write another book. “Read This… On Our Anniversary” is another guided journal. It has a series of questions, you answer them and it becomes your own story. Then you can leave it to others or use it as an anniversary maintenance conversation that needs to be had. It’s really popular as a wedding gift.
In about two weeks we’ll have “Read This… On Your Birthday”. This is the same thing – a guided journal that you buy for a kid in your life. Then on the 21st birthday of this special child, you give it to him, and it’s all filled out. There are opportunities in there where you can have the child sign their name, or draw a picture, so their whole little life is in a book. It’s very sweet. And it is a great baby gift for a new mom in the hospital or a grandma who has a baby in her family, or a godchild. It’s just a really sweet gift.
Annie Presley will be speaking about her three recently-published books at the upcoming Martin City ThirdThursday event, “KSquared Conversations with Kansas City Trendsetters & Tastemakers,” on Thursday, Oct. 20 at The Martin Event Space (13440 Holmes, Kansas City, MO 64145).
Political Consultant and Jewelry Designer Headline Third Thursday in Martin City
Joining moderators Katie Van Luchene and Kimberly Winter Stern, at Martin City’s Third Thursday event at The Martin, Holmes Rd and 135th St., will be artist and jewelry designer Jennifer Janesko on Thursday, October 20. She will discuss her inspiration, collections, and upcoming gallery showings.
Also joining The Martin Talks will be political consultant and Kansas City author Annie Presley to talk about the books she has co-authored with Christy Howard, including Read This … On Our Anniversary: A Guide to Celebrating a Long, Happy Life Together as well as Read This … When I’m Dead: A Guide to Getting Your Stuff Together For Your Loved Ones. Also joining is Christopher Giem, Director of Enterprise Architecture for Fishtech Labs. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month and Giem will address what people can do to protect themselves online and best practices to stay secure.
“This is the fifth in the Martin Talks ThirdThursday series with KSquared and in every conversation, the trends, topics and lifestyle events that make Kansas City such a special place are highlighted,” says Karyn Brooke, AIFD, award-winning floral designer and Sidelines Floral owner-chief creative officer. “October’s event promises to deliver the same compelling discussions from people to know.”
The Martin Event Space, a former church that Martin City Brewery owners Matt and Kara Moore renovated into the area’s newest venue for corporate and social events, hosts ThirdThursday. Since its inception in June 2016, more than 600 guests have attended the free public event.
“The ThirdThursday event adds to the excitement and forward momentum that continues to unfold in Martin City,” says Martin City Community Improvement District Executive Director Missy Wilson. “We encourage all of Kansas City to come and experience Martin City.”
Martin City merchants and restaurants will offer dining and shopping discounts and giveaways for ThirdThursday attendees. The event is free. Seating is limited; to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit Facebook. For more information on Martin City, visit martincity.org.