This semester, I had the opportunity to intern with Representative Fred Strahorn’s office at the Ohio House of Representatives. I assisted the Representative’s Legislative Aid in her daily activities which included answering phone calls, setting up meetings for the Representative with different constituents or groups, updating his schedule, collecting and sorting the mail, filing documents, writing press releases, attending meeting with constituents, and attending session and committee meetings with the Representative.
I applied to this internship position because I wanted to gain a more thorough understanding of the functions of state government. Working in such a dynamic political environment certainly helped me accomplish this goal. Every single day that I was at work, I actively took part in the process of how a bill becomes a law in Ohio, whether that meant that I was reading through and responding to cosponsor requests on behalf of the Representative, listening and responding to constituent perspectives surrounding a particular legislative issue, witnessing testimony in committee meetings, or attending session and listening in on the House vote. However, what I didn’t expect coming into this experience was that I would learn so much about myself throughout the process.
I ended up having an extremely unique experience working for the House. About halfway through my internship experience, the Legislative Aid that I was working with on a daily basis left to take another job. Suddenly, I was the only person working for a State Representative and former minority leader of the Ohio House! In a matter of days, I went from being ‘the intern’ to working as the Representative’s Legislative Aid. Along with all of the other tasks I was in charge of as an intern, I had to step up and take on all of the daily tasks of the LA while also making sure that I stayed on top of my school work throughout the semester. I took meetings with constituent groups on my own, I was fully in charge of the Representative’s schedule, I made sure that he stayed up-to-date on issues in his district, I wrote letters to constituents on his behalf, and I made sure that he knew about any in-house issues when he was out of the office.
Although this experience was dynamic and exciting, it didn’t come without its challenges. The Legislative Aid that I worked with taught me a lot about the office and how it runs, but when she left, there was a lot that I was left to figure out on my own. For example, the first time I had to mail a letter, I had absolutely no idea how to! I didn’t know where to find the envelopes, how to print the Representative’s letterhead onto the envelope, where his stationary was, or where to physically take the letter in the building to mail it. It was small tasks like this that often took up a lot of my time at first. I learned to reach out to others in the surrounding offices to ask for help, which is something I often have trouble doing. Eventually this helped me build up the courage to ask the Representative if I could attend committee and session with him, and ultimately helped me gain more experience outside of the office itself as well.
I barley had any contact with the Representative when I was working with his old Legislative Aid, due to the fact that any questions that I had or issues that needed to be passed along to the Representative went directly through her. Once I took on the duties of an LA, I had the opportunity to actually interact with and develop a relationship with the Representative, which I am very grateful for. He discussed his views on certain issues with me, I attended committee and session with him, and I even got the chance to interview him and draw on his 22 years of experience working in the legislature. Towards the end of my time in the office, he even offered me a job as his Legislative Aid (which unfortunately, I couldn’t accept because I am still a junior).
This unique experience has helped me develop a deeper understanding of both state government and myself. Working as the Representative’s Legislative Aid gave me an idea of what a career working in the legislature would actually be like, as the workload is drastically different from the intern workload. I learned that I can handle a lot more than what I would have originally given myself credit for — if everything that I was in charge of would have been on the original ‘job description,’ I doubt I would have even applied for fear I wouldn’t be successful! Overall, this experience taught me a great deal about the role that the General Assembly as a whole plays in the legislative process, specifically from the perspective of the Ohio House of Representatives. It also provided me with a strong platform from which I will be able to build off of in the future in order to continue to further my knowledge and understanding of the functions of the state government and will be extremely useful as I continue to pursue a career working at the federal level.