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photo of Albert ShieldsAlbert Shields

MPA alum making a difference in Delaware through public service

For Albert Shields (MPA ’07), every day provides challenges in the public policy arena and, with them, new opportunities to serve the public.

Shields is currently Delaware Press & Policy Advisor for Congressman John Carney (D-Del.) and has spent each of his post-graduation years in some public service position.  He actually began working for Carney, who is a University of Delaware MPA graduate himself, as a Policy Analyst in December 2006 as a direct result of his summer internship experience through the School of Public Policy & Administration.

Of that initial position, Shields says, “It was an ideal first job, because I had real responsibility within the office and a variety of tasks and programs for which I was accountable.  I gained experience in writing speeches and policy proposals, handling constituent inquiries, staffing him at public events, and serving as the point person on some of the office’s programs.”

When then-Lt. Governor Carney’s term expired in January 2009, Shields took the position of Legislative Aide to Speaker Robert F. Gilligan in the Delaware House of Representatives.  In addition to maintaining many of the same responsibilities he had in Lt. Governor Carney’s office, Shields was able to get a firsthand look at the legislative process in Delaware.  The House Speaker assigns bills to committee, creates the daily legislative agenda, and decides on member committee assignments, among other things. 

“Being in that position gave me the opportunity to work with members and staff from both sides of the aisle,” Shields says, “and see how some of the most important bills to come out of that session—the Freedom of Information Act legislation, the bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual preference, and the expansion of gambling to table games—were drafted, negotiated, and finally passed.”

When Carney announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives in the summer of 2010, Shields joined his campaign staff as Communication Director.

“In this role,” Shields says, “I was responsible for developing policy proposals, maintaining relationships with members of the press, building the campaign’s social media profile, arranging press conferences, and helping John Carney prepare for debates.  The issues that we discussed on the campaign influence my current job every day.”  It was during the campaign that together they outlined what would become Congressman Carney’s positions and priorities on the important challenges facing Delaware and the nation.

Shields relishes that there’s never a dull moment when it comes to politics and working on behalf of the people of the state of Delaware. “I find the pace of the job to be exciting,” Shields says.  “Issues often come up that require quick decisions or reactions from our office, and I enjoy being part of that process.

“I also enjoy working with constituents who contact our office for assistance,” he says.  “We often get phone calls or emails from individuals who are struggling with very serious challenges.  It’s fulfilling to be able to work with them, help them find assistance, and hopefully resolve the issues they’re facing.”

Indeed the variety of the issues that Shields deals with on a daily basis is the favorite part of his job, but also one of the most challenging.  “Constituents call our office for many reasons, including help with Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ issues, and many others.  Working with them has helped me learn a tremendous amount about federal programs and agencies,” he says. 

When asked what is the one thing he learned while working for IPA that has helped him the most, Shields is effusive.

“Every day, I use things that I learned while working for IPA as a Research Assistant interning with the Delaware Department of Education and in then-Lt. Gov. Carney’s office, as well as in my coursework for the [School of Public Policy & Administration’s] MPA program,” Shields says. 

Working outside the classroom at DOE for three semesters with education administrators, teachers, superintendents, and activists helped reinforce and bring new insight into what Shields was being taught in the program. “I took the most from the experiences that emphasized real-world applications,” Shields insists.  “Dr. [Arno] Loessner’s Public Finance class, Eric Jacobson’s class on Public Economics, and Dr. [Jeffrey] Raffel’s Case Studies class were all very effective at addressing real problems and situations.”

Shields expresses gratitude to IPA’s Ed Freel, who helped him get his summer internship with then-Lt. Gov. Carney, which led to his first job and the positions he has since held. “I wouldn’t have the position I do today without Ed’s guidance,” Shields says.

Shields also highly prizes one of the great intangibles of his graduate education in the School of Public Policy & Administration and, specifically, in the Institute for Public Administration.  He says, “The most valuable and lasting experiences for me are the relationships.  Many of the students and faculty members whom I met while at IPA are involved in public service in Delaware, and I continue to work with them today.” 

Shields is engaged to Amanda Antonucci, a fellow UD alum. He’s a huge sports fan, particularly of Phillies baseball, so spring is one of his favorite times of the year.  He’s also a big music fan and is really excited about the renovation of the Queen Theatre in Wilmington into a concert venue.

And what of Shields’s future? 

“I think I can make a real difference in our state through public service, and I hope to stay involved for many years to come,” Shields says. “Right now, my focus is on helping Congressman Carney have a very successful first term in Congress, representing the best interests of Delaware in Washington, D.C.