We recently had the pleasure of catching up with another RVC alumna who is making a name for herself in the Rockford community. Haley Galarza is a 2012 graduate of Rock Valley College who was just very recently hired as Executive Coordinator for newly elected Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.
Please tell us a little about your background and your connection to Rockford.
I am proud to say that I was born and raised in Rockford. I graduated from Rockford Lutheran High School. I have been an advocate for the Rockford area my entire life. Growing up, and especially in high school, many of my peers excitedly spoke about how they were going to move far away from Rockford after graduation. I always knew that I would come back to the 815 after receiving my Bachelor’s degree. I feel it’s an obligation of mine to aid in helping this city shine.
What made you want to attend Rock Valley College?
After high school, I was unsure of what exactly I wanted to do for a career so I knew that at RVC I would have the proper tools to explore all of my options. In addition, my mom and aunt are RVC graduates and they spoke highly of many of the professors, specifically Professor Dave Ross. Since day one, I was enthusiastic about attending his speech course, and I still reflect on the time I spent in his classroom.
Please talk about your overall RVC experience and also specifically about your experiences in RVC’s Mass Communication department.
I always tell people that I wish RVC was a four-year school because I had such a great experience. The culture at RVC is truly welcoming –not once did I feel out of place. Not to mention, I had some of the greatest professors who deeply cared about the well-being of their students.
As for “Mass Comm,” it has to be one of my fondest memories at RVC because I met my husband. I remember the professor at the time, Brian Shelton, stating at the beginning of my first course that strong relationships would be made during our time together. Little did I know that I would have met my husband! While taking “Mass Comm” you truly do become a family with the other students. I would highly recommend anyone to take a “Mass Comm” class. Not only do you make long-time friends, but the courses also challenge you academically. It’s very rewarding.
Did you continue your education anywhere after RVC? If so, where and what did you study?
Yes. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Governors State University. GSU is about a 45 minute drive from Chicago.
How did the opportunity to work on the mayoral campaign for Tom McNamara come about and what interested you about that opportunity?
I was searching for a new career opportunity, and when I found out that Mr. McNamara was looking for an office manager for his campaign, I reached out to him instantly. Shortly after, an interview was scheduled for the position.
What were your primary responsibilities during the campaign?
As the office manager, I was the front of house for the campaign office. I took all incoming phone calls and greeted Rockford citizens, and volunteers. I did everything for the office that needed to get done – ordering supplies, cleaning, etc. During my time there, I also transitioned more into being Mayor McNamara’s assistant by handling his calendar.
What were some of the most important lessons you learned during the campaign?
I’m not a very confident person. Working on the campaign with a group of great individuals truly made me gain confidence.
In addition, I’m one of those people who usually likes to try and do everything themselves. I learned very early on the in the campaign that that was not an option. I had to use all of my resources and ask for assistance on various things daily. I made many great relationships because of this.
Talk about how the opportunity to work full time for the Mayor came about and how did you react?
When I interviewed for the Office Manager position for the campaign, I let Mayor McNamara and his campaign manager know that my goal was to be his assistant if he won the race. I worked extremely hard and devoted many hours to the campaign.
When I found out that I was officially offered the position as Executive Coordinator to the Mayor, I could not help but cry happy tears. It’s so fulfilling to see something come out of hard work. I am grateful every day for the opportunity to work with Mayor McNamara.
Describe your new role and responsibilities in the Mayor’s office.
My official title is Executive Coordinator to the Mayor. I act as Mayor McNamara’s gatekeeper. In a broad sense, it is my responsibility to keep his life in order. I assist him with whatever his needs may be. Saying I love my position is an understatement. Mayor McNamara is the most gracious person I have ever worked for.
Where would you like to see your career go from here?
To be honest, being the Executive Coordinator to the Mayor is one of my dream positions. I’m truly living in the moment. As long as Mayor McNamara is in office, I will be his assistant. I will see where this journey takes me and go from there.
In what ways do you feel RVC prepared you for this career path?
I’ve always been a hard worker. However, certain courses at RVC, especially “Mass Comm,” pushed me to work beyond what I ever thought I had in me. I constantly remind myself to keep pushing, and to keep working extremely hard because it has brought me to some great places in life thus far.
Is there any personal information about yourself you would like people to know about you?
This is going to sound silly, but our dog, Marble, is my sunshine. We think he is a pitbull/lab mix. Ever since rescuing him, I am a strong advocate for pitbulls. If you’re a crazy dog person like me, look up #marblethepitbull on Instagram. I’m a little obsessed.