Rachel Sweet

Rachel Sweet: Not afraid to speak her mind

Bachelor of Arts, English, 2013 | College of Arts and Sciences
Title: Special assistant for public policy, Office of the Mayor, Kansas City, MO
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

UMKC Alumna Rachel Sweet portrait

Tell us about your current position.

Special assistant for public policy in the Mayor Sly James’ office. There are six policy areas that I cover for our office. For some things it’s a lot of monitoring what’s going on in the national landscape, what other cities are doing, and trying to find ways we can advance the mayor’s agenda. I cover public health, sustainability and the environment, the mayor’s women’s empowerment initiative, employment, financial literacy, consumer protection and small business and entrepreneurship.

How did you get into your position?

I interned when I was a student at UMKC with Kansas City’s chief innovation officer. She did a lot of stuff related to internal process improvement, working with our smart cities initiative, and a lot of tech entrepreneurship. That’s where I really got started. I was with her for six months, and I figured out I really liked working with city government. It was a really cool experience, and when I was finishing up that internship, there was a position that became available for an administrative assistant in the mayor’s office. The chief of staff asked me to apply for it, I did, and I’ve been there ever since. I had two different roles before taking my current position: I was an administrative assistant, and I was our community relations and special projects coordinator.

UMKC allowed me to be in school but still have the whole other life of involvement in local political organizations and volunteering on campaigns. That was, to me, just as significant looking back as the classroom experience.

Why did you pick UMKC?

I was dead-set on being a magazine journalist. I got to the journalism school at another university, then realized it wasn’t a good fit. I wasn’t happy there, so I transferred to UMKC. I ended up loving UMKC, so I decided to stay to finish my degree. UMKC is urban, and I took some classes that were interesting and realized it was cool and I could do this for four more years.

What was your favorite thing about UMKC?

The people I met. I made friends at UMKC that I still stay in contact with. The relationships I built were probably my favorite thing about being here. I was somewhat involved in College Democrats, and I did the Vagina Monologues. That was a really cool experience. I wasn’t the most involved on campus, but I was on the board of the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus. UMKC allowed me to be in school but still have the whole other life of involvement in local political organizations and volunteering on campaigns. That was, to me, just as significant looking back as the classroom experience.

What are your long-term/lifelong goals?

As far as professional goals, I have a couple issue areas I’m really passionate about. One of those is predatory lending like payday loans. I would love to find a way we can end predatory lending in the state of Missouri and in the country. It’s a really big goal, but that is something that is really close to my heart. That is one of my callings that I’m super passionate about.

The opioid epidemic is another issue I’m passionate about. In Missouri, it is a problem, and I’m really proud that the city decided to do a prescription drug monitoring program. Missouri is the only state in the country that doesn’t have one, so St. Louis County, St. Louis City, Kansas City, and Jackson County decided to team up to do their own. It is a problem here, and it’s a huge problem where I grew up in Ohio. In the county I grew up in, there are more people who die of drug overdose than of any other reason. People are really starting to pay attention to this.

What makes you unique?

I’m not really afraid of anything or anyone. There are people who work in politics who are really timid and cautious about taking positions on things and polish their opinions and positions, to the point where it doesn’t seem like they stand for anything. I’m the opposite of that, almost to a fault. I’m opinionated and fearless and will say what I think is right, even if it doesn’t please people.

UMKC Alumna Rachel Sweet portrait

Do you have a motto?

“The wound is the place where the light enters you,” by Rumi. It’s about taking bad experiences and using them to find what you are really about. It’s about taking pain and turning it into something productive and beautiful.

What is your favorite place in Kansas City?

Charlie Hooper’s – a bar and grille in Brookside. My friends and I go there at least four or five times a month, and it’s a place where we can feel really comfortable. I also love the grounds of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, like the sculpture garden.