Alumna finds public service work challenging and rewarding

July 14, 2015
By Bill Krueger

Laura De Castro got her initial taste of civic life at a young age, traveling with her parents to a variety of Democratic Party functions in her hometown of Charlotte. N.C., and throughout North Carolina. As a student at NC State, she was president of the College Democrats for two years and ran a friend’s campaign for student body president. She took time off from school in 2008 to work on Barack Obama’s campaign for president.

That doesn’t tell the entire story of De Castro’s involvement in politics, but you get the idea. At a time when a lot of people are turned off by politics, De Castro seemingly can’t get enough of it. “It just interested me, the ability to make a change, depending on who you are supporting,” she says.

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Laura De Castro with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

And so it’s not hard to imagine that she has been working in politics or government since she graduated from NC State in 2009 with a degree in political science and Spanish. In one of her latest roles, De Castro worked as a scheduler for U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the former mayor of her hometown of Charlotte. It’s a job that De Castro found both challenging and fascinating.

“The one thing about scheduling, every day is different,” she says.

De Castro says there are multiple details — security, logistics, locations, guest lists, speech content — to be dealt with on every trip. And cabinet secretaries are always at the whim of the White House.

“Everything can change at the last minute,” she says. “Nothing is ever confirmed until your principal is walking off the stage. There are just a lot of logistics involved.”

De Castro recalls a bus tour that Foxx took earlier this year from Florida to Washington, D.C., to promote a transportation bill the administration was trying to push through Congress. At the last minute, transportation officials learned that Vice President Joe Biden would be joining Foxx at a couple of stops.

“We had to change our advance plan,” De Castro says. “We were on planes within 24 hours to get out to our locations.”

De Castro knows that plenty of people are frustrated with the federal government, but she still sounds like the idealistic college student she was not so long ago. Working in the trenches has not soured De Castro on public service.

“Sometimes it’s surreal and surprising,” she says. “You’re sitting in a meeting, and you look around and see that it’s just a group of people who are a lot like you. They are making change, changing history. It’s pretty exceptional.”

De Castro now works in the government affairs office for the department, working with Congress on questions about transportation issues. Down the road, she would like to work in a similar role for a university.

“I enjoy working on behalf of a cause,” she says, “and it would be interesting to talk about the impact a university has on the state and economy.”

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