The Agenda

Mitchell Rivard: From Victory Congressional Intern to congressional LGBTQ staff leader

Mitchell Rivard has come a long way since summer 2011, which he spent as a press intern in House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office in the inaugural class of the Victory Congressional Internship. He’s currently serving as the president of the LGBTQ Congressional Staff Association and is the deputy chief of staff for Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI).
As a first generation college student, Rivard credits the Victory Fund with supporting his career path in D.C. After he completed his Victory Congressional Internship, Rivard received help through Victory’s Presidential Appointments Project to get his first job in Washington – working for the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Justice.
“From financial support during my internship, to career training, to helping me write my resume, Victory has offered me so many opportunities that I will be forever grateful for,” says Rivard.
In November 2012, after Rivard worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for a year, a newly-elected Member of Congress, Dan Kildee, called Rivard to ask him to be his communications director. Kildee represents Rivard’s hometown, Bay City, Mich. In January 2015, Rivard was promoted to become Kildee’s deputy chief of staff.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that only four years after my first internship experience on Capitol Hill would I be back here in such a role for my local Congressman. Doing so is a really unique opportunity, and that’s the reason that I took the job in the first place,” says Rivard. “Going into work every day knowing that you are working on behalf of the people back home – your friends, family, former classmates – is an extraordinary opportunity, and one that I don’t take lightly.”
This February, Rivard was also unanimously elected to serve a one-year term as the president of the LGBTQ Congressional Staff Association (CSA), a non-partisan organization with over 150 members that is dedicated to advancing the career interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people working in the U.S. Congress.
Rivard’s goals as president of the LGBTQ CSA are ambitious, and his accomplishments are already notable. He’s especially proud of the organization’s efforts earlier this year to expand workplace protections for LGBTQ Congressional staff. “It is still perfectly legal on Capitol Hill to be fired due to your sexual orientation or gender identity,” he says, noting there is no federal law that protects LGBTQ people from employment discrimination.
The LGBTQ CSA worked “hand-in-hand with many Members of Congress to update and expand their own workplace policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes,” he says. “Alongside the LGBTQ Equality Caucus, we helped to change many office policies – not for all Members, but the work goes on. We hope that the House will soon also include sexual orientation and gender identity enumerations in their office policy templates distributed to all member offices.”
Additionally, Rivard has expanded the range of programming offered to interns on Capitol Hill and worked to expand both the diversity and the size of the LGBTQ CSA’s membership. Along with another Victory Congressional Internship alum and congressional staffer, Yesenia Chavez, the LGBTQ CSA is working to expand its partnership with organizations, including the Victory Fund & Institute. “Right now, our organization has more membership, more resources, and more partnerships with other LGBTQ organizations like Victory than ever before in our decades-long history,” says Rivard. “That’s exciting and we’re certainly going to continue building on those successes.”
Rivard also ran on a platform of increasing diversity within the organization, which he defines as “expanding our outreach efforts to include more women, more people of color, and more Republicans.” Aisha Moodie-Mills, the first African-American and woman president of the Victory Fund, recently spoke at one of the LGBTQ CSA’s monthly luncheons.
Rivard’s biggest takeaway from his time as a Victory Congressional Intern has continued to shape his approach. “Never underestimate the value of a mentor. I’ve had absolutely amazing mentors since my internship who, with their advice, guidance and wisdom through the years have helped me get where I am today. You never know who you are going to stay in touch or reconnect with – for instance, my boss during my first Capitol Hill internship is now one of my closest friends,” he says.
“My guiding principles have been to treat others with respect and be willing to lend a hand to help someone else in need. Be willing to reach back and help another young person at the start of their career – if you’re successful, someone certainly reached back to help you at some point in time. They’ll certainly thank you for the help – and then who knows, they may just reach back to help someone else out too.”