On April 10th, the 2017 Maryland Legislative Session ended, traditionally known as Sine Die. Unfortunately, this date also signaled the end of my time with Montgomery County’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations (IGR).
As the first Gene Counihan Legislative Intern, I was chosen to support the County’s IGR office during the annual Legislative Session. The Office of IGR represents the County’s interests at the regional, state, and federal levels. Moreover, the Office prepares the Legislative program and acts as the liaison between the state government, the County’s state delegation, and congressional staff.
This position was advertised through the Career and Internship Services Center (CISC) at The Universities at Shady Grove. I am indebted to Jennifer Willis-Oliveira, Acting Assistant Director of Employer Relations, who met with me on numerous occasions to help me improve my resume and cover letter.
I was beyond excited when I found out that I had been selected as Gene Counihan’s Legislative Intern. The anxiety I felt about being the new person quickly faded as the Director (Melanie Wenger), analysts, and staff members (Kathleen Boucher, Sara Morningstar, Amy Samman, Leslie Frey, Verna Price, and Wanda Wells) went above and beyond to make me feel part of the team. I was given important responsibilities and was lucky to witness what goes on behind-the-scenes.
I assisted Delegate Queen (District 14) in receiving a unanimous vote on a bill to extend the eligibility period during which businesses that lease property in the Burtonsville Enterprise Zone may claim both real property tax credit and personal property tax credit. Some of my responsibilities included attending hearings, helping to implement a new county legislative tracking system, analyzing bills, and writing position statements and briefing materials.
In addition to tracking legislation, I attended weekly meetings. On Mondays, the staff would generally meet with the County Council to discuss bills that would be coming on the agenda and asking the Council to take positions on the bills. On Wednesdays, we attended meetings at the Maryland Association of Counties, where representatives from our 24 state counties would try to come to a consensus on the different pieces of legislation. On Fridays, there would usually be Montgomery County House Delegation meetings where the County’s Delegates would discuss and vote on upcoming legislation. Some of the speakers at the Delegation meetings included Senator Ben Cardin and Dr. Jack Smith, Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools.
The highlight of my experience was meeting Gene Counihan – the man who my position was named after. Gene has an impressive CV – he spent most his life as an educator for Montgomery County Public Schools, he served in the House of Delegates for over 12 years, he served as a special assistant to Governor Glendening, he was the Maryland Government Relations Officer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, he was elected Chair of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and served as the inaugural chair of the Board of Advisors at the Universities at Shady Grove.
He told me to meet him in the Legislator’s Lounge of the historic Calvert Inn in Annapolis. To my surprise, it turned out to be the local hangout spot for, Senators, Delegates, administrative and legislative staff members. There I was having dinner with representatives I saw at committee hearings. Gene made sure to introduce me to everyone who entered the room. I even made the acquaintance of some of the Governor’s closest advisors.
Ultimately, it was an experience that I will never forget. I met some truly amazing people with enormous hearts. I will cherish my time with the Office of IGR for the rest of my life and my only regret is that I will no longer see their faces on a day-to-day basis.
It is fair to say that I have learned the importance of civic duty and I definitely plan on returning for the 2018 Legislative Session.