Knope of the Week: Rafael Baptista, UNC MPA Student and Author of “Passion for Public Service”

Posted on February 14, 2014

Local Government Advocate. Effective Leader. Contagious Optimism



“A Passion for Public Service” is an apt phrase in describing our Knope of the Week, Rafael Baptista. ELGL has been fortunate to follow Rafael’s trajectory from Willamette University graduate to Linfield staffer to UNC MPA student and writer for Careers in Government and ELGL. (Sneak Preview: Watch for Rafael’s upcoming article on the recent North Carolina City and County Management Seminar)

Despite being on the opposite coast, Rafael continues to contribute to ELGL. He is documenting the UNC MPA experience in the “Carolina on My Mind” column, managing the Southeast ELGL Twitter feed, and serving on the ELGL advisory board.

This week it is particularly relevant to highlight Rafael as he landed a summer internship with Catawba County (NC). ELGL hopes the experience is the beginning of a long impactful career in city and county government.



Rafael Baptista

Education: Willamette University and University of North Carolina MPA

Experience: Linfield College, Joe Gallegos for State Representative, Oregon Bus Project

Connect: LinkedIn and Twitter

Background Check

Rafael Baptista is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He is interested in pursuing a career in government either at the local, state, or federal level. In addition to his studies, he proudly serves on the Emerging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) advisory board. ELGL is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of local government professionals. He also writes the popular “Passion for Public Service Blog”. When not dreaming and writing about government service, Rafael can found in the soccer fields of Chapel Hill and cheering on his Oregon Ducks football team.

Rafael graduated from Willamette University with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Spanish in 2012. After graduation, he worked in political campaigns and in university student affairs. .He hopes to use his experiences and education to secure a career where he can effect positive change in government management and/or public policy. 

Word on the Street

Michael Hurwitz, Careers in Government President

giphy (1)Rafael’s experience in local government has been tremendously valuable to our vast public sector audience of job seekers and employers.  It is rare to find such an advocate who has a deep understanding of government and writes with such insight.  Rafael is also a strong advocate on social media and continues to provide excellent guidance for those planning a career in the public sector.  Rafael is definitely deserving of the Knope of the Week!

Kirsten Wyatt, West Linn (OR) Assistant City Manager

It’s tough to write only a few sentences about Rafael because I think he’s just so awesome.  He works hard, he’s creative, he’s inquisitive, he’s kind.  Couple these things with his MPA degree, and he’s going to be an unstoppable local government force.  I’m so excited that he’ll have a chance to work for Catawba County this summer – he keeps gaining new skills and abilities that will make him a tremendous resource to any community.  I am so proud that ELGL has been able to learn from Rafael and that he’s affiliated with our organization.  He’s truly Knope-worthy!

Eric Peterson, Hillsborough (NC) Town Manager

downloadRafael approaches everything he does with enthusiasm and in a thoughtful manner. It doesn’t matter whether he’s writing an article, making comments in class, or just in casual conversation, his optimism is contagious. Just last week he was on the winning team at the first ever UNC MPA ICMA Chapter HR “Quick Fire” Drills Challenge.  Rafael, along with teammates  Jessica Sherrod and Matthew Teal, worked well under pressure and sifted through the complexity of various personnel dilemmas to identify fair yet practical approaches to real situations that public administrators deal with every day. With those skills he’s going to make a big difference in many people’s lives during his career!

Jenifer Della Valle, UNC MPA Student

Rafael’s commitment to helping others and serving the community serve him well as an aspiring public servant.  He is incredibly dedicated to each organization that he is a part of and is an invaluable asset regardless of the position he holds. At a time when government is in need of passionate young leaders, I am proud that Rafael has taken the call to public service.

Josh Halladay, Falls City (OR) Staffer

imagesRafael has always carried himself with a humble confidence which seems to guide his work ethic.  He knows that if he works hard he will achieve his desired results.  Going back to Willamette, he was one of the most involved people on campus and outworked anyone else in promoting our shared Fraternity.  Upon graduation, he led a grassroots campaign field team, unseating an incumbent in the process.  ELGL and the public sector are lucky that he chose to make a career in this arena.

Ben Kittelson, ELGL Project Leader and PSU MPA Student

Rafael has been great to work with from student government at Willamette to now at ELGL.  His articles are always well written and you can tell how passionate he is about local government.  With Rafael heading the ‘Southeast’ branch of ELGL I know that area will be the next big expansion for the organization.

Kent Wyatt, Tigard (OR) Senior Management Analyst

9780060740245Rafael is everything that is right about the “next generation.” He is committed to public service and to making a difference through hard work.

It’s been rewarding to watch Rafael come full circle – he’s chosen a local government internship over federal opportunities, he understands why Dook University is the root of all evils, and he has transformed from a Twitter newbie to managing the Southeast ELGL Twitter feed. 

Michelle Holder, UNC MPA Student

Rafael always manages to initiate fun and controversial conversations in the classroom; he is not afraid to say what he thinks and that makes for a great cohort member and friend.

Josh Schultz,  Medicare Rights Center, Client Services Associate

Rafael is dedicated to his work and and serious about his commitments. He takes the skills he develops in one setting — signing up new voters  at the Oregon Bus Project, for instance– and he applies those skills to new tasks and situations, like managing Greek life at a liberal arts college.  People enjoy working with Rafael, and they appreciate the value he places in building relationships. Rafael has proven himself as an effective leader who can communicate with diverse constituencies and build bridges among government related organizations. Rumor has it, he also likes waffles.

Supplemental Reading


Pictured Above: Rafael meeting Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber in elementary school

The Scene: (Re)Filling the Big Tent

Part II: A Passion for Public Service with Rafael Baptista

Carolina on My Mind: #WorkLifeBalance

Carolina on My Mind: Understanding Passion for Public Service

Carolina on My Mind: The Residential MPA Experience

Carolina on My Mind: Humidity, Jitters, and Dook

New ELGL Member Rafael Baptista Helps Others Assert Political Rights

The Appeal of Local Government

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