Meredith Lilly On Taking A Gamble
By Kamille D. Whittaker
Meredith Lilly has several choice words for the woman she is becoming: “Think big, work smarter and take measured, calculated risks.”
Risk and eventual reward have become the operating motifs for the attorney-turned community organizer and political director. She gets it from her grandfather.
“During one of my last conversations with my grandfather, who was 100 years old, he talked to me about how much he enjoyed his life and did everything he ever wanted to do. I think he passed that spirit to me. I live very intentionally and to the fullest so as to not have any regrets. I think that conversation validated my sense of intentional living and, in a sense, gave me permission to bet on me. I strongly believe in taking short-term loss for long-term gain. Almost everything that I’ve done in life that has paid off successfully, has cost me something.”
Her cost-benefit analysis, she gets from her legal background and successfully running her own law firm after graduating from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. “I started my career as a full time attorney, which very much dictates how I strategize, develop, and implement my plan. Because I realized early that my path is my path, I’m very authentic and true to me.”
And in 2007, being authentic and true to herself meant leaving it all behind to go work for the historic Obama for America Campaign, where the Alabama native started out her campaign career handing out fliers, making campaign calls and putting up campaign signs in Portsmouth, N.H. She then served as a regional political director, managing multiple campaign offices in several states across the nation. Upon this success in 2008, she received a presidential appointment as the Senior Advisor to the Regional Administrator of the United States General Services Administration in Atlanta — without question, it was the best risk she says she had ever taken.
Then, there’s the reward. She was selected as state director of Obama for America-Georgia in April 2012, distinguishing herself by successfully leading and mobilizing Obama employees and volunteers during the campaign; assisting President Obama to secure a hard-fought victory in the 2012.
In her role, she was a lead engineer who assembled and organized thousands of Georgians to travel to North Carolina and Florida during the last few months of the 2012 presidential election. Additionally, Lilly promoted President Obama’s policies and assisted with early voter registration to effectively help President Obama secure Florida’s Electoral College.
“I was completely new to the political environment in the state. The responsibility of being the state representative for the Obama campaign cemented my future in Georgia politics, and therefore paved the way for me to build an expansive network of community, political, and business leaders not only in Georgia, but around the world.”
After the successful 2012 race, Lilly returned to the Obama administration at the United States General Services Administration in her previous role.
Since, as a testament to her political acumen, she has been called upon to manage the campaigns of Mereda Johnson, Doreen Carter, and Mike Thurmond. Most recently, Lilly managed a challenging, yet successful congressional re-election campaign for Congressman Hank Johnson. Prior to this, she successfully led Kasim Reed’s 2013 re-election bid for Mayor of Atlanta as campaign manager, achieving an impressive 85 percent victory.
In her current role, Lilly serves as DeKalb County’s external affairs manager in CEO Michael Thurmond’s administration. She focuses on constituent services and community-based engagement – adding to her already expansive community imprint with Habitat for Humanity, NAACP, American Cancer Society (Relay for Life), Hospitality House for victims of domestic violence and Toys for Tots. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. – all feeding into another motif she espouses: “See a need, meet a need.”
“The love for people and community motivates me. My faith in God has truly driven me to become successful and has kept me grounded. I know that it is only by His strength that I am able to serve others and my community as a whole. I’m inspired by the future and all that it has to offer. As I reflect on the things I hope to accomplish, I recognize that this is only the beginning. I have much more in store and I am committed to serving my community with fervent passion. We are here for a purpose and until I’ve reached that point where my spirit directs me to do something else, I will pursue what needs to be done.”
But first, ritual. On Sundays, Lilly is on cruise control in the streets of Atlanta.
“I fill up my car and drive around for hours looking at multi-million dollar mansions. It’s how I unwind and dream about the future I work hard daily to build. At the end of my Sunday drive I’m completely out of gas and recharged for the week ahead.” AT