Steven Jacques has worked in politics almost all of his life. He worked as an advance man for many years. An advance man is someone who visits cities and sites before a presidential candidate to prepare for the event. During his work as an advance man, Jacques campaigned with many former presidents and was also a part of the Obama campaign. After his retirement, he wrote the book titled “Advance Man” that was published in September 2014. Jacques was also the former associate vice chancellor of public affairs at UMKC.
When did you start getting into politics?
It started when I was a kid growing up in St. Louis. I went down with a friend and we started volunteering with the local politicians. It seemed like it was miles away from my house, when it probably wasn’t that far at all. We would volunteer when I was about 10, in the 1964 election. John Kennedy getting killed caught everyone’s attention. It caught our attention. So we wanted to get involved with politics.
You were working in the White House by age 23. What do you think contributed to that?
As a kid, I wasn’t hesitant to send a letter and ask if they had a job. And I would go for the fences. In 1974, I had my first campaign. It was such piece of Americana. We went to places you wouldn’t believe.
When you were volunteering as a kid, did you want to be an advance man?
I wanted to be president at that age. I wasn’t aware of advance man work until the Carter election. I had never heard of it before. It’s very specific for presidential campaigns.
Your hiring happens so fast. Do you attribute that to hard work?
Yes, it has to be at the right place at the right time with the right skills. You need a guy you can slide in like an intern.
How do you balance family with a job as an advance man where you travel so much?
It’s a luxury. I wasn’t married until I was 37. My wife, who was a former dancer, understands the gypsy life, and we haven’t had kids.
What ethics do you employ while working as advance man?
It’s remarkable the way you can get in trouble by doing things you never even thought of. But all the shenanigans that I got caught up with are things that I thought up. I always stayed on this side of the law. It’s not worth your career.
What was the best campaign that you worked?
Obama was the best campaign I worked. You know, “No drama Obama?” It was true. There was no drama to the campaign. The campaign of 2007-08 was the best one I’ve ever done.
Are you ever nervous while preparing an event?
You’re always scared down to your toenails doing this stuff. The first thing they told us in training is that you have to have self-confidence. You have to look like you can handle anything that will come down the pike. You have to be there to take the bullet if anyone is PO’ed at the decisions that are made.
What is the hardest part of being an advance man?
The travel. You get into a rhythm, and traveling is the worst part when you are away from home and away from family. Every trip has its own challenges, and they are all different.
How many times has your event gone off without a hitch?
Every darn time. If they are a disaster, they end up in the media and none of mine have been in the media. But I have come close a couple times.