On the Rise — Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-AL)

November 10, 2022

On the Rise is a year-long series leading up to MAP’s ten year anniversary. The series features profiles of Millennial and Gen Z legislators in the Millennial Action Project’s State Future Caucus Network (SFCN) network. The SFCN is a bipartisan network of young elected officials that engages with over 1,600 legislators across the country to work on future-oriented policy solutions. Future Caucus members are committed to pragmatically working towards a culture of political cooperation.

In a recent interview, Rep. Rafferty, a member of the SFCN, opened up about his experience, passions, and policy work as an elected official in Alabama and veteran. Read on to learn more about Rep. Rafferty:

Who is Neil Rafferty?

“I am the current representative of House District 54 in Alabama. I am a Marine, a Birmingham native, and a public health partner.”

Your policy work centers around your prioritization of health. Why health, specifically?

“Health advocacy for me started back when I was working in public health. I had clients with chronic issues and when you dug deeper and got to know these clients more, you would realize that there was food insecurity, educational disparities, health illiteracy, and even transportation issues — being able to get to and from a doctor’s office. All of these issues deal with health in some form or another, so fighting for equitable education, public and accessible transportation options, as well as access to healthcare are all enormous things that could lead to a healthier and more just community.”

You have a record of public service from the Marines and now to public office. What inspired this and what keeps you coming back to public service?

“I think a journey that we all go on throughout life is discovering where you are most useful — figuring out what we are good at and how we can use what we are good at to help other people. For me, I think this stems all the way from being in Boy Scouts and volunteering. My experience with those activities in my youth have all led to my eventual career in public service… Your gifts are a waste if you are not using them to help other people.”

Can you share a bit about your district and constituents?

“I represent the downtown Birmingham area and a part of the Irondale suburb of Birmingham. It’s a very diverse district. It’s got some of the wealthiest areas while also the poorest areas of the city in it. It’s also got a lot of racial diversity — it’s about 59% African-American. It’s also a very artistic, creative area with a lot of movement and nonprofit workers.”

Young people are coming into office at historic rates. What advice would you give to them as they pursue their run?

I think one of the most important lessons is understanding that you don’t have to be good at everything when you are coming in. I struggled a lot with public speaking. I am introverted. I am not the kind of guy that likes to go out. You wouldn’t think that politics would be my strength, but as long as you have the desire to do well, do good in public service, and be of use to your constituents, then everything else will kind of fall into place… There’s a lot of good folks out there who would be great in public service who might not have all that they think they need to have, but trust me, you will learn. You will develop the skills, and you do not need to know everything, so don’t let that dissuade you.”

What is one policy issue that you wish to see resolved tomorrow?

“Medicaid expansion.”

The Millennial Action Project is focused on building bridges, especially across the partisan divide. In your work, how have you been successful at this?

“I really try to find meaningful relationships… Finding common ground, and working on that. I think things like MAP help inspire and give you the skills to help navigate that..”

Rep. Sara Jacobs


Be a part of a network of lawmakers committed to governing effectively, passing more representative public policy, and increasing public trust in democracy.