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Michigan State University

In Service to MI's 5th Congressional District: Mitchell Rivard '11

Mitchell Rivard on capitol steps.

In Service to MI's 5th Congressional District: Mitchell Rivard '11

Though Mitchell Rivard did not come from a politically active family, he nevertheless found himself pulled to political life and public service.

As a student at Western High in Bay City, Michigan, Rivard organized a voter registration drive for classmates and volunteered for political campaigns.

It felt important to be active and involved,” he said.

When Rivard arrived at MSU in August 2008, political discourse ran rampant as the presidential election approached and campaigning politicians descended upon Michigan. Rivard found the environment intoxicating.

“MSU was an epicenter of political activity in 2008,” Rivard said. “Coming from a town of 30,000, this was a big, yet exciting, change.”

The energy of the 2008 election, paired with first-year classes at the James Madison College, intensified Rivard’s interest in politics and stirred deeper involvement. When Rivard learned that the Michigan Promise scholarship program, a merit-based initiative for first-generation college students like Rivard, was at risk of disappearing as the Great Recession pummeled state finances, Rivard helped steer a team of college students from across the state to lobby for the program’s preservation.

Rivard’s dedicated work captured the eye of then-Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s office. At 19, Rivard found himself balancing his MSU studies in Social Relations and Policy with a full-time communications assistant job in the governor’s office.

For the past decade, Rivard has worked for U.S. Representative Dan Kildee, whose congressional district includes Flint as well as Rivard’s hometown of Bay City. As Kildee’s current chief of staff, Rivard manages office operations in Washington, D.C., and Flint, overseeing a 21-member team while acting as the congressman’s top adviser on legislative and political issues. The 24/7 nature of congressional work, he admitted, can be exhausting.

“It’s definitely a lifestyle,” said Rivard, who also serves as co-leader of the House Chiefs of Staff Association, a bipartisan organization of congressional staffers aiming to bring heightened efficiencies and collaboration to Washington.

As a member of Kildee’s office, Rivard helped land $170 million in federal funding to address the water crisis in Flint, including replacing lead pipes and expanding health care resources for Flint residents, and contributed to the 2016 release of local son Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine detained as a political prisoner in Iran.

“Every day brings a chance to go to bat for our communities and constituents in Michigan,” Rivard said. “It’s important and meaningful work that impacts lives where I come from, and that’s what drives me.”

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