Q&A With Joshua Eck '11
Major: Political Science
Minor: Economics & History (double)
Position: I am currently the Deputy Press Secretary to the Senate Majority for the State of Ohio. In that role, I work out of the Senate President's Office (currently Senator Tom Niehaus). I oversee all communication with the media for 11 of the Senators. Currently, my member assignments include the President Pro-Tempore, the Majority Floor Leader and the Majority Whip. It is a pretty broad job that includes everything from approving speeches that the members give, writing press releases, issuing statements on major state & local issues, speaking to the press and assisting them with fact-finding for stories that involve our members or issues before the Senate, and organizing press conferences.
Timeline since Graduation: I'm relatively new to my current role, having just been given this job mid-August. Prior to that, I served as the Legislative Aide to State Senator Troy Balderson who represents the nine-county region of southeastern Ohio. In that role, I managed the Senator's staff, oversaw his legislation and advised him on legislative and political decisions. While in that job, my claim to fame was the fact that I was the primary architect of Senate Bill 310 which was introduced after the "Zanesville Incident" where 56 lions, tigers, bears and primates were released from their Muskingum County farm. The bill, which Senator Balderson introduced, placed the first restrictions in Ohio history on private ownership of wild animals. I also worked on energy policy for the state while in the Senator's office. I held that job from May 2011 (having started two days after graduating Malone) until this past August when I began my current position.
Along the way... Honestly, I wasn't originally too interested in working in the government after Malone. I had interned in the Statehouse through the Bliss Internship Program while at Malone and found it to be frustrating. The slow pace of getting things done disenfranchised me, I suppose. So when I was offered a job with one of the State Representatives, turned it down. However, after I met Senator Balderson (then Representative Balderson), I was immediately interested because just two years before, he had been a car mechanic. He was by no means a government bureaucrat and I found him to be very pure in motive.
I live downtown Columbus, so I frequently walk to work. It's an amazing feeling to walk right up the front steps to the Statehouse, through the door and past security and know that I work there. There are definitely frustrating days when I wonder why we bother with all of this, but every once in a while, you have a good one and it makes it worth it. The first example that comes to mind is this: One morning, an elderly woman called the office and indicated that she was months behind on her utility bills and feared they were about to be turned off. The person in our office that normally handled those things was out, so the call was passed to me. She was mostly worried because it was over 90 degrees outside and her husband, who had both cancer and dementia, couldn't survive in that kind of heat under his condition. I could tell that she had exhausted just about every resource and this was her last ditch effort. It took most of the day calling people in different agencies looking for help, but by the end of the day, I had found a program that would pay her balance down and keep the utilities running. When I called her back to tell her it was handled, she was sobbing. I don't think anyone has ever been so grateful for something I've done. When you have a day like that, you feel a little better about all the other days when it seemed like nothing was accomplished...
Other Accomplishments: In the law-making industry, nothing places a more clear capstone on your work than having a bill signed by the Governor. In June, after months of burning the midnight oil, wrestling with interested parties, and making our way through Statehouse protests, the Governor signed Senate Bill 310. It's a pretty proud moment when the Governor thanks you from behind the podium before he signs 41 pages of your hard-fought work.
How Malone prepared me: I don't know that anything can fully prepare you for working in a legislative body. One day the Senator walked into my office and said he wanted to introduce a bill to allow for the "Securitization of Costs for Electric Distribution Utilities" in an effort to lower utility bills. He said I should also speak to the Public Utilities Commission regarding Non-Bipassable Charges. By the end of the day I had finished googling all of those phrases and had begun making phone calls.
I think the most valuable lessons I learned at Malone were how to work with and care about people, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. I think my time as one of the students on the Disciplinary Committee taught me to not read a book by it's cover and to not judge a person based on just one situation. My time as Student Body President taught me that you can work for YEARS on a project and only improve the situation a little bit, but that change comes slowly sometimes and if you work harder on cultivating friendships than you do on crushing your enemies, then you'll have an easier time of it.
All student leaders at Malone (and any school, for that matter) encounter blockades as they pursue implementing their ideas. These blockades are sometimes other students, other leaders, the administration, or the faculty. Sometimes it's money or tradition that curtails your plans for something new. I thought that once I moved on to the real government that those things would be fewer and farther between. Much to my surprise, there are financial problems, difficult people, and nagging bureaucracies in the real government too (shocking, I know). Every institution, every business, and every community that you encounter throughout your life has one thing in common: they are all run by imperfect people who think they have the perfect plan. Learning to work through those things has to be among the greatest lessons I took from Malone. It can be frustrating at times, but if you care about your calling and you care about people, then you'll learn to navigate these things so that you can make a difference.