New Direction

By on March 25th, 2011

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New Direction

by Susan J. Demas
March 25, 2011

 ImageAs the oldest of three girls born to an avid hunter, Amber Briggs McCann says she was raised more “like a person than a girl.”

“I’ve been in a deer blind more times than I’d like to admit,” she says. “It was for observation — not for any death and dismemberment.”

Now the redhead is taking fire of a different sort, having just stepped into the role of press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe).

As a former constituent services coordinator — and mother to 8-month-old Adelaide — McCann certainly has the patience required in dealing with a hungry and impatient press corps. With her neutral sweaters and soothing tone, she brings a sense of calm when assisting a sometimes raucous caucus of 26 members with its message on the bustling Senate floor.

“I’m used to listening to constituents,” she says. “When they come up here, they want to be heard. Now, people are listening to what I have to say.”

McCann, 29, takes over the job from Matt Marsden, who had a very public clash last month with Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) over his choice to take up the so-called partial birth abortion legislation. Marsden, known for his acerbic wit and stinging rebukes of adversaries, still serves as an adviser to Richardville.

McCann had previously served in a dual role as Richardville’s assistant press secretary and the Senate Republican caucus’ deputy communications director. She says her new position symbolizes a new direction in the caucus.

“Senator Richardville felt the players on the team could be better positioned to meet the needs of the caucus, and that’s where we find ourselves,” McCann says. “It’s about being of more service to the caucus.”

McCann and Marsden worked together for four years in the office of former Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), and she says they still have a “very good” working relationship. But she adds that the two have distinct styles.

“If Matt Marsden is colorful, I am beige,” she smiles. “I am much more measured, more diplomatic, perhaps. That comes from years of meeting with constituents.”

McCann actually cut her teeth in politics as an intern in constituent service for former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. It was her dad, retired Royal Oak police officer Bill Briggs, who sparked her interest in the field.

“When I was interviewing for the position with the governor’s office, they asked me how I knew I was a Republican,” McCann recalls. “And I said, ‘My dad told me that growing up.’ My dad is the guy who likes to watch Fox News, sometimes yelling at the TV.”

She landed the gig while working on her master’s of public administration at Oakland University, where she also served as a graduate assistant. McCann took on several jobs before graduating. She spent a year in government relations for a Novi education firm, Learning Care Group Inc.

And in February 2006, Bishop offered her a position in constituent relations — even though she had worked with Granholm, who was about to become his sworn enemy. But that was before he became Senate majority leader and the most powerful Republican official in the state. (Even still, McCann jokes, “I think he secretly always accused me of being a spy.”)

That was a busy year for McCann, who traversed the state on the campaign trail with Bishop (“I think we put a pushpin in 83 cities in the map of the state of Michigan in the old RV,” she recalls). She also finished her master’s. And in October, she married Justin McCann, her high school sweetheart who does website work for the Suburban Collection, a Troy auto dealership. (“He’s an Internet geek,” Amber grins. “A very cool Internet geek.”)

Over the next four years, she took over as director of office affairs, doing Bishop’s schedule and putting her Western Michigan University English degree to good use in proofreading all caucus newsletters and communications.

After Richardville won the leadership race in November 2010, he approached McCann to join his team.

“It was a pretty easy transition for me, personally,” she says, “although they have different styles and are different leaders.”

Right now, the state budget is dominating most of her time, as she expects it will until it’s finished. And she’s dedicated to preserving the institution of the Senate.

“We have had 25 years in the majority,” McCann notes. “The upper chamber is an integral part of the budget process. We’re interested in serving our constituents, serving the people.”

Baby Adelaide has “been known to interrupt a conference call or two,” McCann laughs. Her infant scoots around their Royal Oak house and still hasn’t quite decided to sleep through the night. These days, McCann doesn’t have a lot of free time.

“When I do, I find as many stolen moments as I can with my husband,” she says. “And sleep, which [Adelaide] doesn’t let me do very much.”

Susan J. Demas, a regular columnist and contributor to Dome, is 2006 Knight Foundation Fellow in nonprofits journalism and a political analyst for Michigan Information & Research Service.

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former lansing staffer
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former lansing staffer

What a great article! Back when I worked in Lansing, I was told that women with children shouldn’t expect to go far in the system, administrative work was the only job they’d get. Kudos to Amber for being a success in what has typically been an old boys club!

Jim Brazier
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Jim Brazier

What are Amber’s policy convictions? This would be far more interesting since she is in a key position for the senate Republicans. There appears to be a critical assumption made that she shares those of the Republican Senate caucus. She must convinced someone that she is a sincere mirror of his or her political and policy preferences.

Suspect
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Suspect

Good profile, but I am suspect of her. She doesn’t sound conservative; in fact she seems to be void of any political convictions as Jim Brazier pointed out. She also doesn’t seem to have a background in journalism or P.R. How is she qualified for this position?

flowergirl
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flowergirl

Oh, get off your high horse – people can excel in a press secretary position with a variety of backgrounds, not just having come from journalism or a PR firm. As for her political convictions, I’m quite sure that Amber has had time to think about them and is comfortable where she is, however, her job is to convey her boss’s message, not her own.

Florence Schneider
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Florence Schneider

Amber’s policy convictions are irrelevent! She is a STAFFER to the Senate Majority Leader and hired to represent HIS policy convictions. A professional staffer must be able to contain his or her convictions and work for the benefit of his/her employer. Obviously, no two people will ever agree on every issue…but she’s not the elected one and her views simply do not matter. Now if Amber decides she wants to run for elected office, that’s a completely different story. Then, and only then, to her “policy convictions” become relevent. There are too many shallow, narrow minded ideological “absolutists” in politics… Read more »

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