Fit for a queen


POSTED: Monday, July 06, 2009

Jamie Story gets paid for promoting principles she believes in, which in her case are “;smaller, more accountable government and greater individual freedom.”;

Story is president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a public-policy think tank started in 2001. She joined the nonprofit early last year after working for a similar organization in Texas, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, based in Austin.

A former Miss Texas as well as a Top 10 finalist in the 2005 Miss America pageant, Story, 27, is a graduate of L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas, and of Rice University, where she double-majored in mathematical economic analysis and sport management.

She is single and lives in Waikiki, where she often swims with the idea of participating someday in a 2.4-mile “;rough water”; contest.

“;I don't think I can do that yet,”; she said last week, “;but we'll see. I keep practicing.”;

Mark Coleman: What are your responsibilities as president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii?

Jamie Story: They've changed a little over time because we've grown, but ultimately I'm responsible for hiring good people—and finding the money to pay them! (Laughter) And then, as there's time, I get to do some writing myself, and media appearances and stuff like that.

Q: What kind of writing?

A: My background is as an education policy analyst, so when there is some time, it's usually on education, but really it's anything, like letters to the editor, commentaries.

Q: And you're involved with the fundraising, too?

A: Yes, though we actually just hired someone, Pila Sunderland, to handle what we're calling “;director of advancement.”; I was pretty much the only person in charge of raising money until I hired him, so I'll be assisting him as needed.

Q: What kinds of people help support the institute?

A: Oh, all different types. We have hundreds of members and people giving anywhere from $2 on up—mostly individuals and then a few private foundations.

Q: Any corporations?

A: Not really. We'd be happy to take some, but in Hawaii the businesses are usually too scared to get politically involved.

Q: Why did you want to work for the Grassroot Institute?

A: Well, I'm passionate about the free market, and this really was an opportunity I couldn't turn down, an entrepreneurial position promoting principles I believe in.

Q: How many people work at the institute, and what are their duties?

A: As far as full-time people, we have five. Then we also have Dick Rowland, who's never earned a dollar doing this, but he works full time here, too. He just volunteers. He's one of the founders of the Grassroot Institute, and he was president until I came on board last year.

Q: In terms of your duties with the institute, do you get out of the office much?

A: Oh yeah. The goal is for me to be out of the office as much as possible.

Q: Doing what?

A: Two things really: either sharing information, and that could be with community organizations or with the media, and then the other is convincing people to invest in our work.

Q: What about making visits to the Legislature or the City Council?

A: I've done some work at the Legislature. We have a full-time policy analyst, Pearl Hahn, and she spent quite a bit of time at the Legislature giving testimony during the latest session.

Q: Have you ever had meetings with our federal representatives?

A: I haven't. Dick may have in the past, but you'd need to ask him.

Q: Has being a former beauty queen been a good thing for you, on balance?

A: (Laughter) Well, we call them “;titleholders”; these days. (Laughter) But I think it's been extremely helpful, as far as the experience goes, because I had spoken to groups of hundreds, if not thousands, of people before, and that's one of my favorite parts of my job now, is public speaking.

Q: Is there a point at which that part of your background is a burden?

A: Certainly it's one thing that someone could pick at, if they wanted to try to marginalize me. I think it's inaccurate for them to do so, but certainly it's happened before.

Q: Speaking of your background, what is mathematical economic analysis, which was one of your bachelor-degree majors at Rice University?

A: It's essentially an economics degree but with extra course work in quantitative analysis.

Q: And what about sport management, your other major?

A: That's basically a major I did for fun, just in case I wanted to enter the professional sports world someday. I'm a pretty big baseball fan.

Q: Do you feel like you're making a difference working for the institute?

A: I do. You know, sometimes the nature of what we do here, you don't always see immediate results, but I will say that we published the first-ever “;pork report”; this year, and since then we've seen additional columns and articles investigating the government by the local media.

Q: What's your favorite part of going to work every day?

A: Oh, it's definitely the people I get to work with. We've got a fun and eclectic group of people here.