Kiersten Todt: The Spark for Public Service

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Looking back, Kiersten E. Todt said that, while in high school, her plans for college changed dramatically. She had planned to major in chemistry and German, but found herself drawn more to ethics, philosophy and international affairs.

As a result of these budding interests, when she was a student at Princeton University, she cold-called the office of the governor of Connecticut, Lowell P. Weicker Jr., for an opportunity to work in his administration. At age 19, she got her foot in the door in an unpaid position, representing the state where she grew up.

The spark for public service was ignited in her when she worked with Stan A. Twardy Jr., the governor’s chief of staff at the time. “He was a tremendous mentor,” she said.

Drawn to public policy, Todt majored in the field at Princeton, where the degree program had an interdisciplinary approach. She also studied public policy at Harvard, getting a master’s degree and learning how to communicate effectively, she said. Both experiences served her well when she proceeded to work for the federal government.

In 2001, working for Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut), she wound up in the heart of the process of bringing the Department of Homeland Security into existence after 9/11. That summer, she had been responsible for organizing a Sept. 12 hearing on critical infrastructure protection. The hearing, which took place while the rest of the government was shut down, “ended up being quite different than originally planned,” she said.

When the legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security was being developed in 2002, Todt found herself needing to draw on the expertise of people knowledgeable in key fields such as bioterrorism, science and technology, emergency management, critical infrastructure and cybersecurity.

After working in the public sector for many years, Todt decided to go into the private sector. Following employment with a consulting firm, she started Liberty Group Ventures in 2011. She and her life partner, Roger W. Cressey (they aren’t married, but are raising four children), work closely together. That business model isn’t for everyone, Todt said, but it has worked for the two of them. “My partner is tremendously supportive,” she said.

A risk management company that focuses primarily on cybersecurity, Liberty Group Ventures is an opportunity for Todt to pursue her passions and interests, but also to use the expertise she has built up over the years. She said that accountability and responsibility are vital components of the current work she does.

The dedication to her clients is apparent. In addition to using space in the Carr Workplaces building in Clarendon, Virginia, she works from home, meets people outside of the office and travels often. “There is no such thing as a typical day,” Todt said.

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