The “Fireman”: Terry Giles (JD ’74) reflects on his work with Ben Carson Presidential Campaign

“Ben Carson’s Campaign Chair Has a Colorful Career,” reads a recent article in the Texas Tribune. “Colorful” aptly describes the exciting life Terry Giles has led since he graduated from Pepperdine School of Law in 1974. However, he says, “nothing has been as intellectually challenging as the last fifteen months on the Ben Carson Campaign. It has been like drinking from a fire hose.”

This latest career move brought unprecedented pressure, but as Giles once shared, “My wife [Kalli O’Malley] calls me the fireman. The thing that I do best is that I can come up with ideas that will create a win-win scenario, and I think outside of the box to approach problems that people are having with each other. That’s proven to be very helpful.” (For more about Giles’s career and background with Pepperdine Law, read the interview here.) Considering the nature of the 2016 GOP Presidential race, it is a good thing that the “fireman” is on the campaign trial.

In 1992, Giles was awarded Pepperdine School of Law’s highest alumni honor and named the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. Giles was later named to the Board of Regents of Pepperdine University in 1996. Last year, 2014, he was honored as a Life Regent. It was close to the same time twenty two years ago that Giles met then-surgeon Ben Carson when they were both inducted into the Horatio Alger Association, a national organization of business leaders that celebrates individuals who have succeeded in spite of adversity.

“They seat the ten recipients each year in alphabetical order for three days of events,” Giles says. “That year there was no one between the ‘Cs’ and the ‘Gs,’ so we got to know one another very well over many hours. We’ve always had mutual respect for one another.”

Both Carson and Giles share a similar story of being born into financially challenging circumstances, working hard through graduate school, and having highly successful careers in medicine and the law, respectively. They stayed in touch in the years after the Horatio Alger Association ceremony. But Giles had no idea how this friendship would evolve in the future.

In May 2014, Giles received an unexpected phone call. Ben Carson wanted Terry to chair his campaign, which meant creating a Presidential campaign from scratch, then forming an Exploratory Committee, and finally launching an official nomination campaign. Practically speaking, this would require Giles to leave his “day job” and hit the campaign trail. After a couple months of discussion with Kalli, Giles made the decision to come aboard.

In July 2014, Giles began his first of three roles for the Carson campaign, serving as Campaign Chair. In the circle of 2016 presidential candidates, Ben Carson was an “outsider,” or new person to the political process, and similarly, Giles was also an “outsider” to campaign management. But drawing on his broad base of legal experience and resources, Giles found his “fireman” skills put to use immediately.

Giles left his role as Chairman in May 2015 to begin an active role in non-official support capacity and to focus on the Carson Super PACs. For nearly six months, Giles oversaw fundraising, coordinated strategies, created ads, and provided grassroots support.

Finally, Giles put his legal skills to use researching and writing policy for the Carson campaign. He says that he had the opportunity to work with the best conservative think tanks and economic and military thinkers in the country, helping to develop extensive monetary, military, and foreign policy.

However, on October 25th Terry stepped away to return to civilian life. Terry headed to his vacation home in Mexico and his hotel in Spain for some rest and recuperation. He looked forward to spending the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with his family.

“I am not a politico or a politician,” he says. “This was not my career and I never took a dollar in compensation. Yet I had periods of time where I was fielding over 400 emails per day. In 450 days in being involved in this effort for Ben, I had been home 50 days. I had done all I could as the campaign chairman, organizing Super PACs, and creating policy. The campaign was in good shape and Ben was number 1 in the polls.”

Time for the Fireman to take a much-needed break.

But for how long?

–By Jessie Fahy, Director of Alumni Relations

Articles/Sources

Texas Tribune: “Ben Carson’s Campaign Chairman has Colorful Career”

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