Meet the reformer: Geoff Pallay, a political encyclopedia wizard
Geoff Pallay is the editor in chief of Ballotpedia, a nonprofit and nonpartisan online political encyclopedia created a dozen years ago to provide a comprehensive chronicling of federal, state and local politics, elections, and public policy. He was hired in 2010 as a staff writer covering state legislatures and has had the top newsroom job since 2015. Originally from New Jersey, Pallay, 35, lives in Charleston, S.C., with his wife, Megan, and their two children. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's the tweet-length description of your organization?
We preserve and expand knowledge about politics by providing objective information about federal, state and local politics.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Well, that's a fun question. I know I certainly accompanied my parents to vote when I was under 18. And I definitely stayed up late watching presidential returns. I think the true first civic engagement would be working for the student newspaper in college in Atlanta, The Emory Wheel. It is certainly the civic engagement that had the earliest impact on my career.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
We're closing in on 300,000 articles on Ballotpedia.org, which will become what I consider my biggest professional triumph once we get there. When I joined the staff we had about 60,000 articles. When I reflect on that question I think about the Ballotpedia readers. I think our company growth and increased readership is what I am most proud of. I am grateful to our readers for continuing to make Ballotpedia a part of their political information journey. And I am grateful and honored to work with an incredible team of people who continue to get better every day to meet those increasing needs from readers.
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And your most disappointing setback?
In 2012, Ballotpedia.org crashed on Election Day. That was, of course, frustrating. The site was functional, but we were not able to edit it and add any results. Our carefully laid plans were made defunct when the servers were unable to keep up with traffic. This was a frustrating day, but we learned a lot from that event.
How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?
Work is a part of our life. I never tell my kids that I have to go to work. I choose to work. And I am fortunate enough to love my job, the company I work for and the purpose of our work. That makes me want to work more, not less.
People are happiest and most effective if they can clearly commit to the moment. Whether you are parenting, working, playing tennis or out on a date, you need to be present in the moment to truly excel. The way to do that is to set very clear boundaries and plan ahead.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Only worry and stress about what you can control. Life throws a lot at you. But if you focus on what you can control, then you'll lead a happier, more centered life. Don't let yourself get worked up about what is outside of your control.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Well, I asked my 5-year-old son and he started combining all sorts of peculiar things like gummy bears and chocolate ice cream and Oreos. "Brewed to Matter" (which is basically coffee and chocolate chips) would be what I would create, except they already have it. So let's try this then. Mint chocolate chip cookie ice cream. You take mint chip, which is a classic, but then you insert mint chocolate chip cookies into the ice cream. And not just any mint chocolate chip cookies, but ones that have been made with fresh mint melted into the butter. We can call it "Masters of Mint."
The West Wing or Veep?
Oh, that's a tough one. I think I'm going to have to take option C though: Parks and Recreation. One of my all-time favorite shows. I just loved all of the local government action.
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
I'm a big habits person. My morning habits are the exact same, seven days a week. My evening habits are pretty similar as well. In truth, I had a hard time answering this one, because the last thing I do at night is essentially avoid my phone.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I hate peanut butter. No, really. I hate it. I know, it is delicious. But I hate it. I have such disdain for it that at times I will say I am allergic so I won't get the follow-up question, "What do you mean you don't like peanut butter?" My son tells me that I am fake allergic — as he stuffs his face with peanut butter.