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Caroline Aderholt: Pioneering a legacy of service as Auburn Trustee with nationwide influence – 2024 Women of Impact

Caroline Aderholt is a shining example of the incredible impact that can be created from a lifelong dedication to an industry. 

From a young age, Aderholt found interest in politics, economic development, and agriculture. She recalls traveling with parents Albert and Shirley McDonald, spending time on the campaign trail, and attending political rallies as young as age six.

Once her father was elected to the State Senate, she fondly recollects experiences paging in the Senate and attending meetings alongside her father. Her close proximity to many politicians of the day, from George Wallace to Chief Justice Bo Torbert, served as a motivator in her early career. 

She cites her parents’ work and continuous dedication to service as her primary inspiration. Aderholt had the opportunity to witness the incredible effect of her parent’s love for advocating for agriculture and agribusiness. This led her to lean into her own work and believe in its potential for positive change.

Most of all, her parents’ service showed her that it was possible for the average citizen to make a difference in policy. It was this work that solidified the idea that public service was for everyone, not just a handful of powerful individuals.

“I believe our system of government allows for the people to effect positive change. I think because of my belief in our form of government and how I saw my parents serve it instilled in me the desire to help others navigate our system of government.” 

Growing up on a cotton farm in North Alabama, Aderholt’s family had a long-standing relationship with Auburn University because of the important work they had done with agriculture research and development. So, naturally, when Aderholt’s district had an opening on the Auburn Board of Trustees, she was highly interested in the position. Aderholt considers her position on the Auburn Board of Trustees a great honor and an amazing opportunity to serve not only Auburn University but the state of Alabama. 

As for Aderholt’s approach to enhancing and refining her professional skills, she speaks to the importance of connection, “I think the key to staying relevant in politics and business today is staying connected with people in many different areas not just with decision-makers. Building relationships is vital to problem solving and growth.”

Aderholt aims to stay on top of new and emerging policy trends in culture, politics, economics, and higher education. She accomplishes this by being an avid reader, listening to the people around her in lieu of solely consuming media, and being involved with a diverse group of individuals across Washington. The combination of these efforts hones Aderholt’s ability to predict trends more effectively. She considers this skill the key to staying prepared and being successful. 

For Aderholt, her personal and professional journeys are deeply intertwined, and, in this way, she finds professional inspiration in her personal life.

One of her greatest personal inspirations is her mom, Shirley McDonald, who has been a leader in agriculture, politics, and business. She was a national leader in promoting Made in America and Cotton products, a delegate to several Democrat National Conventions, and a very gifted political campaign strategist in her day among other talents. Aderholt looks to her mother as a visionary and strong woman of faith.

“I grew up seeing a mom who took care of our family, supported my dad in his career, and added to his work as well as never fearing to try new things. In many ways, I feel like I have just continued the work of my parents.”

Regarding her most significant professional achievement, Aderholt finds her greatest satisfaction in the behind-the-scenes work she conducts to connect others and solve problems for individuals and their organizations. As for a project or achievement that she foresees having a lasting impact, she cites her work on the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch in 2017. 

At this time, she was serving as the Chief of Staff for Concerned Women for America in D.C. where she also oversaw the lobbying team. When the time came to nominate the next Justice to the Supreme Court, she called Penny Nance, CEO of CWA, and shared with her that CWA needed to engage in the process of nominating the next Justice. The team immediately engaged in vetting people they believed would be considered by President Trump to be nominated.

“As Chief of Staff for CWA, I crafted a campaign strategy for the nomination of Judge Gorsuch that CWA would implement.  This is significant because it was really the first time that a national conservative organization intentionally crafted a layered strategy to support a nominee for the Supreme Court.”

Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by a vote of 54-45. The strategy developed by Aderholt for the Gorsuch nomination became the template for the confirmation campaigns that CWA implemented for Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Aderholt believes this to be some of her most significant work due to the role that the confirmation of Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett will play in Supreme Court rulings for decades to come. 

“I was just one of many players in a movement that has changed the course of court rulings for a lifetime.”  

Looking to the future, Aderholt is open to trying new things. She never planned to serve as Chief of Staff for CWA, the largest public policy women’s organization in the country, but she believes that God opened a door and she considered it the perfect opportunity for her to use her time and talents.

Similarly, she never thought she would have the opportunity to serve on the Auburn Board of Trustees, but once again, a door was opened for her.

The future could hold many paths, to which she is open, but Aderholt knows one thing for certain, “I will always be drawn to serving in ways that will promote Alabama and Alabamians.”

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