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Davis Journal

Legislative interns work behind the scenes to keep the process running smoothly

Mar 07, 2024 04:03PM ● By Becky Ginos

SALT LAKE CITY—Lawmakers have been on the Hill passing bills and balancing the budget this session but behind the scenes there’s a small army of interns who help keep things running smoothly. Although they’ve been working long hours over the last 45 days, two interns, Cutler Hollist and Lindley Richards said it’s been a great experience – but they’re also looking forward to a little rest.

“I leave at 5 a.m. and take FrontRunner from Provo,” said Hollist, who interned with Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful. “I get home by about six or seven. My wife has supported me through it all.”

The hours can be hard and unpredictable, said Richards, who interned for Rep. Karen Peterson. R-Clinton. “I was leaving at 4:30 a.m. from Provo and getting home about 8 p.m. I’m back home staying with my family for now so it’s better now that I’m closer.”

Hollist is a student at Utah Valley University and Richards is attending BYU. This is Richards’ first year of college and Hollist’s last. Both are considering going into law after graduation.

“I felt like it would be a great opportunity,” said Hollist. “I’m 28 so I’m a bit older than most of the interns. I had to go through several interviews before I was selected. The people I interviewed with said it was an easy decision to place me with Rep. Ward.”

Richards just graduated from Fremont High School last May. “I’ve always been interested in government and public policy,” she said. “I was the Sterling Scholar for social science. I saw a poster at BYU and the deadline was in two days. I hurried and applied and I was lucky enough to get a spot.”

“Rep. Ward doesn’t have me do lots of writing,” said Hollist. “He has me contact constituents and sort through emails from constituents and those who are not. I help him with an email list so he can contact his constituents during and after the session. He really likes to respond personally.”

Hollist said he is also a facilitator for conversations with people. “If they’re on the Hill and want to meet with him, etc. I put that on his schedule. The main thing I do is bill tracking. Not really his bills because he knows where they are at. I follow bills on the reading calendars that he needs to review before they’re on the floor.”

If House bills are in the third reading Hollist said he tracks those along with any Senate bills coming through. “I also look at ones with money associated with it and any concerns from other legislators or interest groups, which ones other representatives are in favor of and those who are opposed.”

Interns are the staff, Richards said. “Anything that needs to be done, we do it. I do scheduling and bill tracking. I keep an eye on when she (Peterson) has to present at committee and other bills as they come through. I’m always listening to see what gaps need to be filled.”

Richards said if a constituent texts at the Capitol she forwards those to her and sets up a time for her to speak to them in person. “She responds personally to emails. That takes a lot of time and energy.”

Before her internship Richards said she didn’t see the importance of collaboration. “When a bill is opened it has a far reaching impact. I also didn't see the importance of standing committees. That’s where you learn what’s going on and the public can comment.”

Both said they’ll miss the other interns. “I’ve built some amazing relationships,” said Hollist. 

“It’s been great getting to know the other interns,” said Richards. “It really is a community.”

They would also encourage others to do it. “If you’re thinking about interning I would recommend this,” said Richards. “It’s just such a learning process. There are so many skills you pick up.”

“There’s a lot of good people up here trying to do good things,” said Hollist. “I’ve loved being a part of the process. It’s been exhausting but it teaches you so much. Not just about a career but it teaches you about yourself. It will guide your life for a long time.”