I’m a little more than a week into my internship with U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ Traverse City Office, and so far, it’s been fascinating. I began with the basics- routine office stuff that needs to get done (voicemails, letters of commendation, and so forth), but then branched out to other more in-depth areas. I’ve attended a Michigan Department of Transportation meeting on drugged driving and autonomous vehicles and a meeting with the head of a regional realty association, and have started working on agenda items for the Senator’s visit to the northern lower peninsula in July. In addition, I’ve begun my dive into the background information on the Wurtsmith Air Force Base’s groundwater contamination problem- decades of a slowly-spreading toxic plume that threatens both the ecology and public health.
By far the best part has been to witness (and be a part of) the structure of just one Senator’s offices. It’s immensely complex, and I had no idea how many people it took just for one senator to be able to do their job. In that sense, it’s a great networking opportunity as well- I’m meeting lots of people not only in Senator Peter’s organization, but in the region in which I hope to live as well.
This sort of networking-by-way-of-necessity is also a challenge, as well. On just a basic level, it’s already difficult to remember everyone’s names and roles, how they influence politics- especially when they’re only voices over a speakerphone. Out in the field, too, I’m introduced to people so rapidly it kind of makes my head spin! If anyone has any tricks for remembering who people are, please let me know.
Another (more serious) challenge, of course, comes out of my main research project on the Air Force Base. It’s a hugely sticky issue going back decades, and no-one has been able to come to a satisfactory solution. My main project with the office this summer is to come up with a policy recommendation, which will be hard to do- and the people I’ll have to talk to to get some of the background info are reportedly pretty sick of politicians and their staffers always asking questions but never taking action. It’s not pleasant, but it’s also a real chance for me to have an impact on an issue that affects people in my region.
Luckily, I feel well-equipped to handle any emotional situation the job throws my way- 6 years in food service/management has trained me well, or so I hope. The stakes are higher here, but the payoff and experience are so worth it. Looking forward to doing more in the coming weeks!