“30 Under 30”: The fresh faces of the RPOF: Jordan Gibson, Wadi Gaitan, and Clay Barker

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With mad digital content management skills and a passion for new media, 26-year-old Jordan Gibson is passionate about her work as digital director for the Republican Party of Florida.

“I was raised around campaigns, even waving signs at a young age. So, combining my creative talents with my love for politics has been a natural direction,” says Gibson, who worked on the digital team for Rick Scott’s re-election campaign.

She has also logged a stint with CFO Jeff Atwater, and got her start after meeting Dan Dawson, then the RPOF’s new-media director. “His gig seemed like it fit everything that came natural to me. When Dan moved on, Lenny Curry and Brian Burgess gave me my first shot. I am very thankful to both of them.”

One principle I always put above politics is … Romans 12:2.

When I begin a project or first work on a campaign, I look for … It’s important for the message to connect with the audience. As a digital director, I want to create videos, graphics, and social media posts that generate excitement and that are shareable. I am constantly seeking new ways to increase a message’s reach and take it “viral.”

One lesson I’ve already learned is … Things change a lot in politics, but no matter how much things change, if you keep working hard it will not go unnoticed.

If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in … a small marketing firm that is making a big splash!

In 10 years, you’ll read about me… owning my own digital and design firm – and still working hard to elect Republicans!

Twitter: @JordanBGibson

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The first Honduran-American communications director for the Florida GOP, and easily one of the top bilingual media operatives in the United States, 27-year-old Wadi Gaitan’s skills will be put to the test this election cycle in the highest-profile Latino media market in the country.

Gaitan’s résumé includes stints working for Rep. Carlos Curbelo and on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, among other stops.

I got into politics … Because I wanted to play a role in electing leaders who focus on creating opportunities for people to achieve the American Dream. I also wanted to work in a profession where I could use my experience of growing up in the Hispanic community as well as be an asset with Spanish-language skills.

One lesson I’ve already learned is: It’s not about knowing the answer every time, but working with the right people to get to the answer. Pretending to know everything can result in mistakes, but it also stops you from looking to learn from other people.

If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in … the dream would be: soccer commentator for Real Madrid.

In 10 years, you’ll read about me … in the throwback version of Florida Politics’ 30 under 30.

Twitter: @wadijr  

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And after time spent working for Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jake Raburn, 26-year-old Clay Barker is sharpening his skills as political director for the RPOF.

“In a much simpler life, I’d probably be a barista, they always seem happy, even at 5 a.m., and they have access to endless amounts of coffee,” says the hard-driving FSU grad.

The people I most admire in politics are … those who stay true to who they are and don’t let the process change them.

One lesson I’ve already learned is … Nothing is given, you must earn it by working smarter, harder and staying three steps ahead of your competition. If you don’t, somebody else will.

If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in … Finance.

In 10 years, you’ll read about me … Married to my best friend and partner in crime, Heather Manso, being a “cool” dad, enjoying the little things in life and working in politics.

Twitter: @Clayrbarker


Melissa Ross

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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