No one would accuse Scott Holcomb of being an underachiever.
He served 12 years in the military, six of those as a U.S. Army JAG Corps lawyer—including deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He joined Sutherland Asbill & Brennan after leaving the military, and during that time ran (unsuccessfully) for secretary of state. In 2007, he became the general counsel for J.P. Turner & Co., and in 2010, at age 38, he became a first-term Georgia state representative. Holcomb was re-elected in November.
As if practice and public office were not enough to keep him busy, he also is enrolled in the University of Georgia’s executive MBA program and in his free time, trains for marathons and a triathlon.
Holcomb rarely slows down and he says that’s how he likes it. He carved out a few minutes to talk about what drew him to politics and why he keeps a full plate.
After reading your biography on your Website, it looks like you have a lot of interests. Would you say that is true?
Yeah, no doubt. In fact, I think being an attorney is probably down at the bottom of my interests. There are a lot of other things that interest me a lot more, but the great thing about being an attorney is it allows me to pursue all the other things that I really love and enjoy doing.
What got you interested in politics?
A lot of it has to do with my military service. Having spent so much time overseas in some pretty challenging circumstances forced me to think about the world in government and civil society in a way that I think a lot of people haven’t had the chance to reflect. I really loved being in the military, but I also very much enjoyed being deployed. It’s the most meaningful work I’ve done in my life and I’ve done a lot of stuff.
I got married in the summer of 2001, and my wife and I basically didn’t see each other for the first two years of our marriage so she kindly suggested I find a new line of work. And I was ready to get out because it was clear neither Afghanistan nor Iraq was going to be cleared up. I went from there to Sutherland.
I was selected to be a Marshall fellow in 2004 and traveled to Europe in 2005.
I was in Denmark and they had us meet with five Marshall fellows who were all under the age of 35 and were members of their national parliament. It kind of blew me away because here in the United States to be in your national government at 35 or younger is really unusual.
I asked, “How did you get to be in a position at such a young age?” One of the female members of parliament, who went on to be their minister of defense just a few years later, said, “it’s really quite simple. You can either talk about it or you can do it.”
So that got my brain flowing a little bit. To fast forward, it’s not what I thought it would be like at all and most of the time it’s quite disappointing in terms of what it’s actually like.
Do you think you went into it a little naive?
No, but I was surprised by how some legislators treat the job in terms of the amount of effort and diligence they put into reading the bills, and the amount of attention and care that they give to making smart policy.
The truth is there are many who don’t read the bills at all. At all. You always hear that, but I found that to be really surprising.
Is it hard to be a politician and a lawyer? Neither rank particularly high in popularity.
I know. I know! I’m batting a thousand on the popular careers. I find it to be very challenging to do both because I actually have a job. It’s not just a sinecure or something that’s a placeholder where people just pay me money. I actually have a job that is pretty demanding. It’s not easy trying to balance the two.
And because I’m insane, I also have the executive MBA program that I’ve been doing. It’s been great. I’ve found that it really complements my legal education in a great way.
You’re a marathoner and participated in Ironman Florida in 2009. An Ironman is no small feat. What were the distances?
A 2.4-mile swim in the Gulf of Mexico, 112-mile bike ride and then a 26.2-mile marathon.
How was that experience?
It was mental and very physical. I did not do what you should do. I trained for about 18 weeks, which I think they suggest you should do a lot more. Work and other things got in the way.
Fortunately, I was in shape enough where I could jump in and start doing the training. It takes a lot of time. On average it takes between 10 to 15 hours a week.
What about your marathons?
I’ve done six overall with my dad and five Marine Corps marathons. I did the Marine Corps marathon in 2010 with my dad and it was his last marathon.
With all the things you’ve done, can you think of one instance that was the most challenging?
I think the most challenging would certainly have to be my time overseas. I lost some friends over there in both wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), which was difficult then, and it’s something I think about every day.
I haven’t done too much introspection on it, but I know at some level the reason why I push myself so hard is because of that. I know that tomorrow isn’t promised, so I like to push myself and get as much out of each day as I can.
I never stop, which I think is a good thing. As soon as I reach one goal, I just keep on working toward the next one.