Tommy Sowers

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Dr. Tommy Sowers
Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Tommy Sowers.jpg
CEO, SoloPro Inc.; Former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (August 2012-April 2014)
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Tammy Duckworth
Personal details
Born (1976-02-23) February 23, 1976 (age 40)
Rolla, Missouri, USA
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Duke University, London School of Economics and Political Science
Profession University Professor
Religion Christian

Tommy Sowers (born February 23, 1976) is the CEO of SoloPro, Inc. Sowers previously served as the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and as a McKinsey & Company management consultant. He was the 2010 Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in Missouri's 8th congressional district and is a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer.

Early life and education[edit]

Born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, Sowers was educated in the public school system and graduated from Rolla High School in 1994. From 1994-1998, Sowers attended Duke University on an ROTC scholarship.[citation needed]

Military career[edit]

In 1998, Sowers was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. First assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, Sowers led a combat engineering platoon in the NATO campaign during the Kosovo War. While stationed in Germany, he represented his division in the Best Ranger Competition as well as an Eco challenge.

Sowers later attended the Special Forces Qualification Course, graduating 1st in his class. Between 2004 and 2006, while at 10th Special Forces Group, Sowers served two deployments in the Iraq war as a Green Beret, leading and advising U.S. and Iraqi units on counterinsurgency operations. He commanded a twelve-man A-team responsible for building up and training an Iraqi SWAT unit while stationed outside Tikrit. During his 11-year military career, Sowers was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, Military Freefall Badge, Ranger Tab, Special Forces Tab, Belgian Commando School Brevet, two Bronze Stars, Joint Service Commendation Medal, NATO Service Ribbon, and numerous Distinguished Honor Graduate awards. He left the Army with the rank of Major.[citation needed]

Academic career[edit]

In 2002, Sowers won a Rotary Scholarship to study at the London School of Economics, where he graduated with a mark of distinction awarded to the top three graduates.[citation needed] A version of his dissertation was later published in Armed Forces & Society.

From 2006 to 2009, Sowers served as an Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, teaching courses in American Government, Advanced American Government and Media & Politics. While at West Point, Sowers led a cadet summer trip to India, focused on service learning in the Himalayas and interaction with the Tibetan Government in Exile, including an audience with the Dalai Lama. In fall 2009, Sowers taught in the History and Political Science Department at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri.[citation needed]

While at West Point, Sowers was accepted to the PhD program at the London School of Economics. In October 2011, he completed his dissertation, entitled "Nanomanagement--Superior Control and Subordinate Autonomy in Conflict (Mid-level officers of the U.S. and British Army in Iraq 2003-2008)". The dissertation explored how technology adopted by hierarchical organizations dramatically affects how superiors monitor and direct the actions of subordinates.[1]

2010 U.S. Congressional campaign[edit]

In September 2009, Sowers announced his candidacy for Congress against incumbent Representative Jo Ann Emerson.[2] Libertarian Rick Vandeven and Independent Larry Bill also ran.

On Veterans Day 2009, former Clinton White House official Paul Begala featured Sowers in an op-ed, calling the candidate "everything you'd want in an up-and-coming young leader: brave and battle-tested, deeply rooted in his community and passionate about bringing change and progress to his long-neglected corner of Missouri."[3]

In January 2010, Sowers traveled around all twenty-eight counties in the district in a project dubbed "Boots on the Ground." Sowers worked a job in every county, garnering a great deal of local press.[4] Boots on the Ground's success led to a mention from former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean on MSNBC, predicting Sowers "is going to knock off, I think, Jo Ann Emerson." In July, Sowers embarked on Boots on the Ground II, again working a job in every county.[5]

Sowers was added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's top races, the "Red to Blue" program.[6]

Sowers raised over $1.5 million in the 2010 cycle. Sowers out raised all of his opponents, including Emerson, two out of the four quarters.[7] Sowers was endorsed by General Wesley Clark and his organization VoteVets, which aims to put more veterans in Congress.[8] He was also endorsed by two Medal of Honor recipients: Retired Colonel Jack H. Jacobs and former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey.[citation needed]

In a profile in mid-April, Politico's Jonathan Martin called Sowers "one of the party’s most promising recruits."[9] In August, Sowers released his first ad, Combat Bible, which highlighted his military credentials. The ad was met with praise from Politico's Ben Smith, who called the ad "How to run against a GOP incumbent in red America this year."[10][11]

On Election Day, Emerson defeated Sowers with 65% of the vote.[12]

Political positions[edit]

During his campaign, Sowers received national attention for his call to end the conventional war in Afghanistan, criticizing the objective of training the Afghanistan National Army and Police.[13]

In September 2010, Sowers appeared on Joe Scarborough's Morning Joe and The Ed Show to call for an end to the war in Afghanistan.[14][15] In October, he was profiled on the front page of the Washington Post.[16]

Post campaign[edit]

After his congressional campaign, Sowers worked as the Senior Advisor to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nation's first and largest non-profit focused on improving the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. As Senior Advisor, Sowers represented his generation of veterans, speaking and attending various conferences from Renaissance Weekends, TED Global, Aspen Institute's security forum and the Clinton Global Initiative.

In August 2011, he was profiled in Joe Klein's Time Magazine cover story "The New Greatest Generation".[17]

Sowers completed his PhD in 2011 with the help of the Post 9/11 GI Bill.[citation needed] In 2012, Sowers worked as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company.

Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs[edit]

On May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama nominated Sowers to be Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.[18] Sowers testified before the United States Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on July 18, 2012 and was introduced to the committee by Senator Claire McCaskill.[19] Sowers was confirmed by the full Senate on August 2, 2012,[20] at the time the youngest Senate confirmed Assistant Secretary in the nation. Sowers was sworn into office on August 20, 2012.

As Assistant Secretary until April 2014, Sowers represented and advised the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on matters relating to media relations, public affairs, and intergovernmental affairs.[21] Sowers has testified before the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs regarding the VA’s efforts to increase the number of veterans accessing their VA benefits. Sowers served as a primary spokesman for the VA, making appearances in numerous national print and televised media.[22][23][24][25] An NPR story described his travels to remote Alaska in an effort to meet veterans while conducting personal outreach in 43 states.[26] Sowers also penned multiple op-ed articles in The Huffington Post highlighting key veteran issues.[27]

During his time at the VA, Sowers strengthened VA partnerships in an effort to increase veteran access and usage of VA services. He revamped VA web services to be customer centered including the ExploreVA site, which serves as a portal for veterans to discover what benefits they are eligible for.[28] Under his direction, the VA initiated the VA Access Campaign which dramatically increased social media outreach, launched the first national outreach campaign to connect veterans to VA services, updated VA web services, and a "Pro-Bono" national advertising campaign.[29] Sowers refocused VA efforts on veteran homelessness overseeing the "Make the Call" campaign, which increased calls to VA facilities from veterans at risk of homelessness by 125 percent, and housing gap analyses.[30] Sowers also revamped and opened allocation of funds for adaptive sports programs and created a public-private partnership with Americans for the Arts that gave thousands of veterans access to creative arts therapy.[31]

Professorial career[edit]

In 2014, Sowers accepted a position as visiting faculty in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.[32] His courses focused on leadership, political engagement, and developing students into effective public servants and citizens.[33]

Chairman, The Lincoln Awards[edit]

Sowers served as the Chairman and Co-Founder of The Lincoln Awards: A Concert for Veterans & the Military Family presented by The Friars Club in Washington D.C., which recognizes service by and for veterans and military families.[34][35] The Lincoln Awards, named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln, will host its inaugural awards ceremony and all-star concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in January, 2015.[36]

Americans for the Arts Board[edit]

Sowers was named to the Americans for the Arts Board of Directors in December, 2014. Americans for the Arts advances, leads, and supports organizations and individuals who promote, sustain, and cultivate the arts in America.[37]

SoloPro Inc.[edit]

In 2015, Sowers, along with fellow founders Shayne Sowers and Narayan Krishnan, created SoloPro, Inc. a pro-agent, pro-buyer online marketplace of real estate services. Named by CNN as one of the five startups "changing the real estate game",[38] SoloPro raised over $1.6M of venture capital] and has launched in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Sowers was recognized by Inman as one of "The Inman Top 101," in which they recognize "101 real estate industry professionals whose ingenuity, strength, conviction, power and persistence are driving industry change."[39] He was also featured in the February/March 2016 issue of Durham Magazine.[40]


  1. ^ Sowers, Thomas (2011-10-11). "Nanomanagement—Superior Control and Subordinate Autonomy in Conflict: Mid-level officers of the U.S. and British armies in Iraq (2003-2008)" (PDF). 
  2. ^ "Army Veteran Challenging Missouri GOP Rep. Emerson". 2009-09-09. 
  3. ^ Begala, Paul (2009-11-11). "A Warrior on a Mission in Rush Limbaugh's Home District". 
  4. ^ "Tommy Sowers: Lessons Learned Traveling Missour-ah, Getting "Shoulder Deep" in a Cow". Riverfront Times. 2010-02-17. 
  5. ^ "Tommy Sowers Puts His Boots on the Ground Again". Southeast Missourian. 2010-06-28. 
  6. ^ "Tommy Sowers: a credible challenger to Jo Ann Emerson". 2010-06-16. 
  7. ^ Keller, Rudi (2010-07-18). "Emerson, Sowers reach $1 million in campaign funding". Southeast Missourian. 
  8. ^ "Vets Endorse Fellow Veteran Sowers in Missouri 8th District Race". 2009-12-10. 
  9. ^ Martin, Jonathan (2010-04-20). "Sowers on offense in defensive year". 
  10. ^ Smith, Ben (2010-07-07). "How to run against a GOP incumbent in red America this year". 
  11. ^ "Combat Bible". Sowers for Congress. 2010-07-06. 
  12. ^ "Emerson beats Sowers for ninth U.S. House term". Southeast Missourian. 2010-11-03. 
  13. ^ Sowers, Tommy (2010-07-22). "Who Will Pay for the Afghan Military?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-09-16. 
  14. ^ "Tommy calls for an end to the war in Afghanistan on Morning Joe". Retrieved 2010-09-13. 
  15. ^ "Tommy Sowers on The Ed Show". Retrieved 2010-09-14. 
  16. ^ Jaffe, Greg (2010-10-12). "Combat veteran Sowers calls for end to wars in bid for House seat in Missouri". Washington Post. 
  17. ^ Klein, Joe (2011-08-29). "The New Greatest Generation". Time Magazine. 
  18. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". 2012-05-09. 
  19. ^ "McCaskill Recommends Missouri Native for Key Veterans Affairs Post". 2012-07-19. 
  20. ^ "Senate Floor Wrap Up for Thursday, August 2, 2012". 2012-08-02. 
  21. ^ "Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs". U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  22. ^ "Veterans Affairs lauds technology, blames predecessors for 2-year claim wait". 2013-03-27. 
  23. ^ "Visiting VA official Tommy Sowers says demand for veterans' services will only rise". The Oregonian. 2013-08-02. 
  24. ^ "Many Maine veterans missing out on benefits". Bangor Daily News. 2012-12-19. 
  25. ^ "Veterans compete in Valor Games Midwest at Soldier Field". 2013-08-12. 
  26. ^ Lawrence, Quil (2013-05-28). "Searching For Veterans On Alaska's Remote Edges". NPR. 
  27. ^ [1]
  28. ^ [2]
  29. ^ [3]
  30. ^ [4]
  31. ^ [5]
  32. ^ [6]
  33. ^ [7]
  34. ^ [8]
  35. ^ [9]
  36. ^ [10]
  37. ^ [11]
  38. ^ [
  39. ^ "Inman | Top 101 in Real Estate". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 
  40. ^ "Inman | Top 101 in Real Estate". Retrieved 2016-04-15. 

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