Emily Novotny served as campaign manager for dad Paul while securing job with Trump 2020 re-election bid
by Jim Boyle
Emily Novotny turns 22 on Valentine’s Day, but she has no plans for a big celebration or even slightest expectations of chocolates or dinner reservations. She’ll be working in a dream job, one of the latest developments in what has been a whirlwind of one big thing after another the last six months.
She scored a prized White House internship in August, and after completing it and her college degree, she served as her father’s campaign manager in his successful bid to replace Rep. Nick Zerwas in the Minnesota Legislature through a compressed special election. And in the midst of all that she has been hired to play a role with President Donald Trump’s re-election bid. She has been hired to serve as an advance press representative for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
“All that credit goes to my parents’ (Paul and Nicole Novotny) support of every opportunity and crazy dream I have ever had,” she told the Star News this past Tuesday night after the election results were in. “They (always) encouraged me. I’m thankful to both of them and my sister (Shelby).”
To help her father get elected to the Minnesota House and see him represent the community he so dearly loves is hard for Emily to put into words without getting emotional.
“My dad truly is my hero,” she said. “He has been my hero and best friend for as long as I can remember. He’s been a true model for what it means to be a good father, good husband, family member and member of the community.
“I’m not only proud to have managed his campaign, but I think we’re really lucky to have him representing us in the state House, because there’s no one I can think of that loves this area more.”
She expects the conversations between them about politics to flow like they always have.
“We have always kind of been a sounding board for one another,” she said. “I don’t think that will change just because there’s a new title involved.”
Where all the changes will lead, God only knows, she says.
Her resume already includes stints with Sen. John Thune in his Sioux Falls office, and the South Dakota gubernatorial race that saw Kristi Noem become the first female governor of the state.
“She’s awesome,” Novotny said, before being asked if she sees herself running for office someday.
“I am not going to count it out,” she said. “I don’t think running for office is something you can plan for.
“I think it needs to be something that happens organically — timing and where you’re at in your career and personal life (are important considerations).
“We’ll see if that’s God’s plan for me. It would be exciting if it was.”
For now, she will turn her attentions from the Minnesota House race for District 30B to the United States presidential race.
She got involved in politics as teenager
Novotny got her start in politics at the age of 14 when Nick Zerwas ran for the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2012. When her dad asked her to attend Zerwas’ first campaign meeting for the run, she said yes fast. By the time the meeting was over, she wanted to attend all of the meetings going forward. Without a license, her parents would need to be all in.
It turned out to be a great experience, and Zerwas won his election. When Tom Emmer ran in 2014 for former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s open seat, she says she “kind of created my own internship.”
“I showed up and said, ‘Hey, I’m your intern.’ They’re like, ‘What?’ ”
She said she asked for a desk but no paycheck. She started out making some calls and worked her way up into a field director’s spot a couple years later.
“Rep. Emmer really gave me my first shot,” Novotny recalls fondly.
Interest in politics started in elementary school
Her interest in politics was evident, however, even as a fifth grade student at Lincoln Elementary School in Elk River.
She announced to her teacher Beth Collins during an assignment for the 2008-09 school year that she wanted to be anesthesiologist and asked for help in spelling it.
“I knew from that moment this girl has drive,” Collins said.
It was during that school year Collins’ class would follow the 2008 presidential election in which Barack Obama won the presidency. At one point they looked at, reflected on and discussed an editorial cartoon.
“I remember how impactful it was, even for fifth graders,” Collins said of her students who learned about the Electoral College, an often-confusing topic for kids (and some adults) that Novotny seemed to grasp quickly. By the time the election rolled around, students had read many old newspapers chronicling the victories of previously elected presidents and the walls in Collins’ classroom were covered with political ads that had spurred discussions about the impact policies have on people’s lives.
Collins, who grew up in a split home with one parent a Democrat and the other a Republican, stressed the importance of forming one’s own opinions and identifying the issues that are important to them.
“We talked about politics a lot that year,” Novotny said. “(Mrs. Collins) really made it exciting.”
She empowered Novotny to run a mock election, which helped engage the students in something that had consumed the country.
“I’m excited to hear about all of the wonderful opportunities Emily is getting due to her passion for civics, although I am not surprised,” Collins said. “Her career path has definitely changed from ‘putting people to sleep’ as an anesthesiologist to ‘waking people up’ by helping people run for office and being a voice for the candidates she supports and our country.”
After Lincoln, Novotny attended Salk Middle School and then Elk River High School. Collins, who later taught Emily’s sister Shelby, kept tabs on the older Novotny and said she was honored to be invited to her induction into the National Honor Society.
Emily Novotny also did dance up until eighth grade, played sports until injuries hampered her participation and she’s proud to say she shot trap at Elk River High School. She said she never made varsity, but she participated and she got more time with her dad as he volunteered. The whole family also made a habit of watching Shelby’s softball games all throughout high school.
While a student at Elk River High School she helped start Elk Buddies, a special education inclusion program that continues to flourish.
“That was my big high school project,” Novotny said. “It was a way of getting special education students more integrated into the general population.”
Teacher Sonja Weiler told the Star News Novotny championed the program after attending a leadership conference and learning of something similar being done at another high school.
“As a part of a DECA project, her group conducted research to determine if there was a need for something similar here at Elk River High School,” Weiler said. “Their research told them that there was a need and ‘Elk Buddies’ was formed.”
Since then, the group still meets and is managed by students, but membership is open to anyone in the school. DECA teacher Weiler and special education teacher Sarah Stecker help with coordination, but students run with it otherwise. Novotny says it’s successful because of all of the neat friendships and memories that are made in combining the regular education and special education populations.
Novotny said she also grew up being involved in Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation and pro-hunting organization and foundation established in the United States in 1984 by four hunters from Troy, Montana. This group’s mission is to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitats and American hunting heritage.
Novotny graduated from Elk River High School in June 2016 and started college that fall at Augustana University, a private Lutheran university where she double majored in government/international affairs and communications. She packed her classes in and graduated in December 2019, taking advantage of J-terms, which cram entire classes in three-week periods.
“It’s a great school,” she said. “It’s a small school that is faith-based and has excellent academics.”
She made amazing friendships and got involved in College Republicans, becoming the state chair of the College Republicans in her sophomore year.
In addition to the chairmanship, she worked for Sen. John Thune for a bit and worked on Kristi Noem’s race to become the governor of South Dakota.
Without a doubt, however, the capstone of her educational career was to be an internship she sought last summer. She applied for and only one internship: A White House internship.
Augustans is an ELCA school and one of nearly 20 partner school. Because of this she had had an opportunity to intern by day, attend night school to wrap up her schooling all while have access to student housing That was if she got selected.
“I put all my eggs in one basket,” she said. “I don’t know what it was, if it was that I was always around politics and learning about government, or because it was part of my dad being in law enforcement or simply just civic awareness.”
The internship application process required writing about 10 short essays and one long one, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and a questionnaire used for background checks for national security positions. There’s also typically a phone interview.
Novotny found out in August 2019 that she was selected.
“I balled hysterically,” she admits of her reaction. “I was so excited. This is something that I have dreamed of forever.
“The White House is the house of the most powerful person in the whole world, respectively. It has always been a big dream to be there.”
Novotny said she is limited in what she could say about the internship, but made clear it was an internship and not a White House job.
As an intern she was able to assist on different projects, programs and events.
She volunteered at the state arrival of the prime minister of Australia, which was “a great opportunity to assist in executing that event.”
She and fellow interns also got to be there for a Marine One landing, shake hands with the president and go on East Wing tours with historical liaisons.
She also volunteered with the fall garden tours and was at the White House for Halloween.
“That was a really cool experience,” she said.
When the Washington Nationals were there, the interns got to help with that.
They also heard from a lot of speakers, including Vice President Mike Pence and several high level officials in the administration as well as several members of the cabinet.
“It was an incredible experience — a once in a lifetime (experience) to be at the White House. I’m really thankful and fortunate to the administration for this internship program and being there.”
Fresh off completing the internship and graduating from college on Dec. 6, Novotny was back in Elk River for a Dec. 7 endorsing convention where her father got the support of local GOP activists. She interviewed Dec. 20 for a job, but couldn’t saytalk about what it was until more background checks were completed and she was officially hired.
She flew out after the Jan. 14 primary in which her dad beat out fellow Republican Kathy Ziebarth, of Big Lake, and returned home in time to help with the Feb. 4 election and celebrate the new job with her family. More celebrating took place at 9:12 p.m. on Feb. 4 when election results from Elk River and Big Lake poured in.
Emily Novotny hasn’t made any decisions beyond the 2020 elections.
“I’m only 21 and I graduated early, so I feel like I have a little bit of extra time,” she said. “But I think eventually I will want to open up my own political fundraising firm, but that would be a little further down the line.”
The next nine months should be interesting for the Novotny family.