Though Lindsay Killen hails from the Smokey Mountains of East Tennessee, she ended up working for a think tank in Michigan, due in part to her family history.
“My earliest influence was my great-grandfather, George Koether,” Killen said. “He was an economist and one of the earliest proponents of Austrian economics in the United States.”
Koether was a lion in the free-market world, working with the likes of Ludwig Von Mises and F.A. Hayek. He had strong Michigan roots, growing up in Detroit and attending Albion College. Koether later worked for the Foundation for Economic Education, which now gives an annual award in his honor.
He fed Killen’s interest in the freedom movement, sending her cassette tapes of his musings on free trade; his debates, conducted in smoke-filled rooms, with Ayn Rand; and other topics. When Killen considered higher education, he suggested the Ford Institute for Public Policy and Service at Albion College.
Following his suggestion and example, she enrolled there. Like him, she then set off on an eclectic career path, which has taken her from Michigan to Washington, D.C.; California; Nashville, Tennessee; and back to Michigan. Now she serves as the Mackinac Center’s vice president of strategic outreach and communications.
One particularly significant stop on her journey was an internship at the Freedom Alliance, a national defense think tank headed by Lt. Col. Oliver North.
“One area of my life that evolved significantly over time, both personally and professionally, is my reliance on my Christian faith,” Killen said. “My great-grandfather resisted religion and any influence it may have in public policy. But I witnessed Lt. Col. North holding monthly prayer meetings in his office – something that would stick with me through college and as a young professional in D.C. Unlike my great-grandfather, I began to internalize how critical my faith is to why I continue to be motivated to change peoples’ lives for the better.”
In 2017, she married her husband, Jeff, at his family’s home in Glen Lake, Michigan. As they contemplated life together, the Mackinac Center became an obvious destination.
“I’ve always been drawn to the Mackinac Center,” Killen said. One reason was her family ties to the state. But another, she said, is its role in the freedom movement. “It has long set a True North path for principled, successful liberty organizations, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
As vice president for strategic outreach and communications, Killen sees her role as empowering her team members to be successful and ensuring that the Center helps shape freedom-oriented policies in Michigan and beyond.
In her free time, the workout junkie and self-described Peleton groupie participates in “free-market riders,” an online Peloton community that allows her to network with other freedom-movement folks working up a sweat.
“My husband and I also enjoy running, hiking, and boating, though the term ‘free time’ feels increasingly elusive!”
It’s no wonder, as Killen and her husband welcomed their first child – a daughter, Viola – in 2019 and will welcome their second child in March 2021.