By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The governmental affairs firm founded by Dax Swatek is rebooting with a new name, a new partner, and a renewed focus on getting results for clients.
Swatek, Vaughn and Bryan – or SV&B for short – launched this week with a brand new logo and website.
Sommer Vaughn, who has been a partner with the firm for two years, now adds her name to the door. Vaughn previously worked in state government for eight years, serving in the Governor’s office and as Deputy Chief of Staff in the Speaker’s office.
Philip Bryan is the newest partner, stepping into the private sector after more than seven years as Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s Chief of Staff and closest adviser. Word that he was leaving the Senate to begin a lobbying career was big news in the Alabama governmental affairs world.
The three partners sat down with Alabama Daily News this week to discuss their firm’s new launch. Their office is simple, but well-decorated with Alabama-themed art and professional accolades; it is spacious, but with quarters open enough for the three to hollar about a project update or lunch order.
“This has always been a client-focused firm, and what I’m excited about is that Philip and Sommer allow us to take that to the next level,” Swatek said. “They are well-known quantities in the State House and there’s not a ‘tier one’ firm in town that wouldn’t want them.”
That’s not hard to believe, judging from the near-constant buzzing and dings from their smart phones, notifying them of texts, calls and emails from lawmakers and clients. Each must step out from our lunch of pizza and salad to tend to an important conversation.
“What we have here are three ultra-competitive people who just really enjoy what we’re doing,” Vaughn said.
“But we communicate, and that’s the difference. If a client talks to me, they can know they are also talking to Dax and Philip, and vice versa.”
Bryan echoed those sentiments about communication and complementary strengths.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had two people where everything we have to cover – knowledge-wise, business-wise, friendship-wise – is covered,” Bryan said. “Dax’s business sense, Sommer’s experience in the House, my experience in the Senate, and how we are willing to communicate openly – it just works.”
Bryan also said that that even though each partner has primarily worked in Republican politics, their relationships with Democratic lawmakers allow them to be a bi-partisan firm.
“I know that my entire time working for Sen. Marsh, he insisted that we form and keep strong working relationships with Democrats. I think I can say the same for Sommer,” Bryan says as Vaughn nods in agreement.
“In this business, a lot of folks are either Republican firms or Democratic firms, but we have the relationships to talk to members on both sides of the aisle.”
The firm Swatek founded in 2001 has evolved through different iterations over the years. Previous partners have gone on to launch their own enterprises. David Azbell founded Azbell Communications and is one of the state’s premier political writers. John Ross went into the medical device distribution business in Memphis, Tennessee. Tim Howe recently left to become Editor and part Owner of YellowHammer News.
Another part of the firm’s evolution is eschewing political campaign work. Whereas campaigns once represented as much as 25 percent of their work in the past, it’s now 100 percent focused on lobbying and issue-advocacy.
SVB boasts an impressive client list that includes Wells Fargo, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Baptist Health, UAB School of Medicine, and Spectrum Media, just to name a few. Their website lists services such as government relations and lobbying, strategic planning and general consulting, public relations, and grassroots advocacy.