Laura, a senior political science major, was press intern for Colorado gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman last summer until he failed to make the ballot. Now, she is taking a look at city government as an intern in the Mayor’s Office of the U.S. ninth largest city — Dallas.
After my whirlwind summer in Denver ended, I drove down to Dallas the Sunday before school started hoping to find an internship. After spending so much time in the working world, I knew it would be a rough transition back to academic life. I knew that finding an internship would help me maintain the professionalism I had learned working on the campaign. I also wanted to find an internship that would help me be a part of the Dallas community. This left me with a tough decision between searching for a business internship or searching for another internship in governmental affairs.
I know that Texas is governed by an elite group of politically involved and financially well-off citizens, but I found my past experience working on the governor's campaign easily lent itself to furthering my experience in government. I applied for an internship with the City of Dallas, Office of the Mayor.
On my first day, I immediately felt at home among others who made their careers in government. In the morning I handled phone calls from people living in Dallas who had needs and complaints. I even had a few phone calls from non-Dallas folks demanding services from City Hall. In the afternoon I was asked to sit in on a committee meeting, which the City Council members attend, but not the mayor. My job at the meeting was to keep the mayor informed of the council activities in order for her to be well prepared for Council meetings on Wednesday mornings where important issues are voted on.
As I left City Hall at the end of the day I reflected on notorious city governments. Tammany Hall in New York and the Daley machine in Chicago are two city governments renowned for their corruption.
I knew that every day the Office of the Mayor helped someone in the city of Dallas, but I was struck by the lack of vision for the future of the city.
Hopefully, by the end of the semester I will understand what the Texas political elite envision for the future of Dallas.
The past month at the Holtzman for Governor campaign has been fascinating. I have seen how resilient the human spirit can be. Marc Holtzman, our candidate, put his whole life into running for governor of Colorado. His decision was not based on a whim, but on his dedication to policy and ideals. Colorado politics is based on the caucus system. Through this method each candidate must be elected by his or her party in a statewide convention. If the candidate does not meet the minimum number of votes he may then petition onto the ballot.
At the end of May, after staying up for thirty hours, the other interns and I received bad news. Holtzman was 71 votes shy of making the ballot. Everyone arrived at work a little downtrodden the Monday after the convention. As soon as Marc arrived he thanked every one of us individually (interns, volunteers, and longtime Republican hotshots) for all our hard work on the convention. Then he addressed us as a group. Marc knew the importance of his task, and was not going to let a corrupt caucus system stand in the way of his path to governor.
The weeks after this were long and grueling. I mentioned the details in my last entry. One day I was at work for over thirty hours. By the last week in June we had an answer. Marc was not on the ballot. I learned that no matter how much a person wants something and how hard a person works, sometimes it is not meant to be. There is nothing Marc could have done to improve his chances. The numbers were simply not there on our petitions. We were required to turn in 10,500. Well, we turned in 20,100. Unfotunately, the people who signed the petitions were not all Republicans.
When I was young, everyone told me that I could do whatever I wanted in life. Everyone said "if you believe it, you can achieve it." It might sound like a disappointment or it might sound disheartening to learn that this is in fact not true. I have encouraged myself to look at this as a life lesson. I only have a limited time on this planet, and I am lucky every time I learn something new. In fact, this lesson has taught me to work harder and prepare more, because even if you do lose than at least you did your best.
I am staying in contact with many of the people on the campaign. Many are moving on to senate and congressional races. As for me, I am looking for another opportunity to gain some life experience before I have to go out and make it on my own. As soon as I find that next opportunity, I will let you know. For now, I am in a new city with no family and a lease until August. It is time to put the pedal to the metal and make something happen.
To prepare for my internship I subscribed to the Denver Post e-mail updates. This meant I was informed and prepared my first day on the job. However, I never would have predicted the strenuousness of the campaign trail.
Attention to detail
As a press intern I am the Press Secretary's "deputy." I am responsible for the details of the press department. My most mundane experience is newspaper clippings. However, I know that I will never be paid to read the newspaper again.
I relish the time I spend on even the most mundane tasks for two reasons. First I feel I am paying my dues. I feel no leader can be strong without first doing the smallest of the tasks required. Secondly, I know that being on a campaign is a time-limited experience. We are working toward a goal. Right now our goal is the August 8 primary. If every campaign worker does not give 100 percent all of the time, we cannot expect to win the election.
Other tasks I have include advance work. When Marc Holtzman is going to be at a location with members of the media/press attending as well, the press secretary and I go to the location to find the best background for the event. It's details like this that ensure every piece of media on our campaign is meaningful.
I also prepare comparison pieces for our supporters to see how Marc Holtzman is being treated in the news all over the state. This is where my liberal arts education helps me analytically. I must identify in three points whether or not an article is a "good piece," a "neutral piece," or a "negative piece." I most enjoy this part of my internship.
All hands on deck
Last week our campaign went into "all hands on deck" mode. This meant I was taken away from my responsibilities as a press intern and put to work towards a crisis situation. This required me to transition my daily tasks, in addition to quickly learn new technology and operating systems.
While we were successful (our candidate is still in the race) it required me to spend 24 hours on the job. That's right, I worked from 10 am on Monday until 6 pm on Tuesday...without sleeping. The commitment and dedication of all the staff was incredibly motivating. However, I also had to learn to put personal problems at the door when other staff members chose not to work around the clock.