It’s hard to believe it, but I’m half-way done with my internship at New Orleans’ City Council District B office! The first month seems to have flew by so fast, and the second month will probably go faster. Since I started my internship, I have learned a great deal about city government, which was my first learning objective I talked about in my first post. I understand how laws are passed in a city, now, and the vital political processes required to keep New Orleans running smoothly. I have been able to witness first-hand how a council-member interacts with their fellow government workers and with the citizens of their city.
My second learning objective was to learn how to be competitive and successful in a male-dominated field. This I learned best through observation, and I have seen how Council-member LaToya Cantrell works very hard for both her constituents and the city. She is a force of nature, and giving it her all makes it harder for people to criticize her for her gender. If they did, their arguments would not make much sense, as there is ample evidence that Cantrell’s gender does not make her a less capable council-member. Essentially, I have learned that if I do my absolute best, it will be harder for someone to hold my gender against me, as I would have evidence to prove that their claims as baseless. I know this is somewhat unfair, as men do not have to worry about people using their gender as an excuse if they do not do well on something, but it is a very real part of politics for women. I would rather know than be blindsided that if I do not do my best on something, it might allow someone to blame my gender. One can not make an issue of gender if one does not have the opportunity to do so.
My next goal involved discovering if I wanted to work in elected, appointed, or career government positions. I think, based on what I have seen so far, I definitely want to work in career positions rather than elected ones. Politicians must have a certain showmanship in order to convince people that they are the best person for the job. I, however, have a much simpler personality and am very straightforward, which is not the best personality for getting elected. I can see myself getting into a career government appointment, rising through the ranks with my hard work and determination, until one day I get appointed to a top position. My fourth goal was to learn to deal with high-stressed situations. People in the council office do not get stressed out that much, and I think it because they have learned not to let stressful situations get to them. Government is full of stress and stressed out people, and I think that one just gets used to it after awhile. Also, as I have learned from my coworker who answers constituent calls, one must never respond to a stressed person by getting stressed yourself. You must remain calm and reasonable in order to solve the issue.
My final goal was to learn how to make decisions based on multiple perspectives. I have learned that in government, the best answer is often a combination of several different people’s opinions. Governments are meant to work for millions of people, and in order to serve them well, it is necessary to include as many perspectives as possible. Simply listening to people’s concerns and ideas can help you think of a better solution than the one you originally thought of on your own. All of these concepts I have learned are making me a stronger leader, which I know will be useful in my future career. I am building skills that will definitely be applicable in any job. For example, there are a lot of topics I deal with (like restorative tax abatement) that I have never worked with before, and I must do research and ask questions in order to understand it well enough to do a project with the information. Adjusting to looking at unfamiliar material is a skill that I will undoubtedly use again. It is impossible to know everything, and chances are I will find myself in a similar position one day. Now, thanks to my internship, I will be able to handle picking up on the new information quicker and will be better at familiarizing myself with it.
Finally, one project I am currently working on is looking over the edits to New Orleans’ 10-year master plan, which will worked on and approved at the next two council meetings. It has been really cool to read over these plans, which detail how New Orleans will reach its ten-year vision. The plans outlined in those hundreds upon hundreds of pages will have a very real impact on the average New Orleanian, and I feel their importance. I am excited to be apart of such an important project, one that will have a real impact on New Orleans for years, if not decades, to come.