Everything’s Bigger In Texas

by Santiago Cirnigliaro, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group

Since accepting the offer to participate in the Austin Legislative Internship Program, we have been told over and over again that we will be working with some very important people within the state of Texas. It’s been recommended that we memorize the legislative members’ names and faces, as well as learn to differentiate the senators from the representatives. We have been warned to not call a senator a representative and vice versa, since it can be considered extremely disrespectful. Since accepting this position, we have been told about the big egos within the building. I figured the egos would be big, but not as big as I have seen. But, like they say, everything is bigger in Texas; apparently so are the personalities.

We have encountered varying personalities within the capitol, from the representatives who openly carry their pistols around the capitol to the members who cross the line with their inappropriate touching. When we were doing our orientation right before session started, I thought everyone was exaggerating the number of egos that are in the capitol. However, I have found that it’s not just the members who have the big personalities. I have come across several staff members who act just as privileged as their bosses. It seems as if coming into the capitol requires a big ego regardless of your position.

As it was explained to us, everyone who works in the building is dreaming of being the president of the United States one day. The very similar personalities have included fake laughs, lingering handshakes, or the rumors that behind closed doors they are bossy and like to yell at their staff to get things done. This is one of the aspects that scares me about working in politics. I do not believe in the fake personalities, boosted egos, and being rude because of someone’s position. As a social worker, I believe that the dignity and worth of a person are extremely important. Therefore, seeing all of these personalities has actually taught me something.

This experience so far has taught me that the “politics” within politics needs to change. Elected officials were elected to represent the people and make Texans lives better. During the past month of going in and out of the capitol, I have realized that if I ever am able to work as an elected official such as a representative, senator, or any other position of leadership, I want to be seen as an example. But not as the “examples” we have seen so far.

I want to be able to be approached by any staff member and not be intimidating. I would want people to understand that I too am just another person, just with a different title. Working for the people of Texas should be the most humbling job at the capitol. We have continuously been told that, as staff members, we are the ones that make the capitol work and that we are the ones behind the scenes pushing for the bills to get passed. As an elected official, I would want my staff to know that, to know that they are appreciated, and that I understand that they are people as well.

This is my first session and I definitely have a lot more to learn. I hope that I am wrong about most legislators. I hope that I can definitely change my mind about my position. Regardless I know that I have already learned so much about myself in this short month that we have been in session. I look forward to the opportunity to learn more and I hope to one day be the change that we so desperately want to see.

About GCSW Legislative Interns

This blog is brought to you courtesy of The Graduate College of Social Work's Austin Legislative Internship Program. The College selects graduate MSW students to intern at the Texas Legislature during its legislative session every two years. Student interns work as full-time staffers in the Legislature, either as policy analysts with the Legislative Study Group, a Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, or in legislators’ offices. Here, they will share their unique experiences!
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