Jonathan Pelham is a junior on the UGA Track & Field Team. He is currently studying Political Science and International Affairs and had the opportunity to participate in an internship with the Governor’s Office for the State of Georgia during the summer of 2017.
This summer I had the pleasure of interning under Governor Nathan Deal. I can honestly say that this experience was one of the best of my life. I learned countless things about the political process; both past history and current news. Prior to this experience my knowledge of state government and the proceedings within it were relatively limited; however, now I am able to confidently discuss the efforts of state officials and their day-to-day duties.
THE OFFICE- INTERNS
The Governor’s Office embodies and emphasizes the term “family.” It is hard to not catch this attitude and vibe felt buzzing around the office. That being said, it is safe to say that each staffer is invested in one another, and any one of them would be willing to go the extra mile for the whole office. Throughout the summer I had the opportunity to experience this atmosphere for three months as a policy and legislative affairs intern at the state Capitol. As an intern, I did a myriad of tasks that included: typical intern tasks like making coffee, stocking the printer, greeting legislators, stocking the refrigerator, picking up mail, and answering the phone. However, I was also able to engage in some projects outside of those tasks that really helped grow my understanding and enjoyment of state government. I was fortunate enough to spend one evening working an event at the Governor’s mansion honoring all the valedictorian’s in the state of Georgia. For this particular instance, I served as simply an usher/photographer. Yet, I was within close proximity to Governor Deal the entire night. Thus, I was able to interact with him a majority of the time. This was the first time I had met the Governor and it was hard not to smile while in his presence. Governor Deal has such a bright personality and caring persona that spreads toward each person he meets. After that evening, it was easy for me to understand why Governor Deal’s staff is so appreciative and loyal to him.
To further back up Deal’s reputation, State Senator Jack Hill once said, “Nathan Deal is a genuinely fine person, who happened to be elected Governor” (Legacy 2015).
In addition to that experience, towards the end of my internship I was able to travel the state with Governor Deal for a whole day. The Governor spoke at a ground-breaking ceremony for a technical college expansion in Northwest Georgia during the morning. In his speech, he even acknowledged the other intern and I! Following that, he spoke in the afternoon at the FFA camp in Covington where they had built a new facility in honor of State Representative Terry England. We were able to fly in the helicopter from the Governor’s mansion to the first event in Dalton. Following that, we flew over to Covington for the next outing before heading home. In addition to the Governor, I was able to interact with some of his security detail and closer personnel that day. I cannot speak highly enough about how enjoyable and helpful they were throughout day. However, the best part had to be the two and a half hours spent in the helicopter with the Governor. During this time I truly began to understand even more of why his staff is so loyal and supportive of him. Governor Deal’s storytelling and genuine personality were contagious as we flew across the state.
Within the policy and legislative affairs side, I was able to collaborate on a few projects to aid the office. Specifically, the tasks that I worked on included going to and listening to various committee meetings, filing important bill memos, and creating spreadsheets of legislators preferences/general information for the 2018 session. According to Mr. Lonice Barrett, the director of implementation in the Governor’s Office, “The interns who work here are not just hired help and the quality of interns has continued to rise” (Barrett 2017). Mr. Barrett has worked in state government for forty-eight years, under a combined eight Governors.
THE OFFICE- LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS TEAM
My desk sat amidst both the policy and legislative affairs teams who serve under Governor Deal. The two teams are housed together in the lower level of the Capitol. This space was reserved by these two groups due to how often they collaborate and rely on one another. The group that I believe I relate the most to is the legislative affairs team. I hope to pursue a future career in this line of work one day. Here in the office, this group is commonly referred to as the “Leg. Team.” This team of hardworking individuals aim to carry out the Governor’s agenda. Moreover, this group is responsible for relationships with legislators in both the House and Senate. They are the ones who push the Governor’s goals for the year, and they also keep him aware of actions taking place in each chamber (Williams 2017). I was able to interview most of the legislative team, providing me with a unique understanding of their day-to-day duties.
I have greatly enjoyed my time here in the Governor’s Office. To have been a part of this family for a short three-month stint has been one of the best experiences of my life. Many Georgians and many Americans do not know the powers invested in state government. Many look only to the federal level for a helping hand when in need, they often do not realize their issues could easily be solved right here at home. It is surely something I have learned this summer. I am grateful for this experience, the people I’ve met, being welcomed by a top tier staff, Governor Deal, and finally- the great state of Georgia.
Furthermore, this experience would not have been possible nor as an impactful one for me without the help of UGA and The Georgia Way. I am so thankful for this opportunity and all the potential opportunities presented here at UGA. There is certainly no other school who continually goes above and beyond the standard for its student-athletes!