Michigan Legislative Consultants on 30 Years at Lansing

On January 11, we experienced the swearing in of the 102nd Legislature. It’s given me reason to pause and reflect as it was 30 years ago I began my career in the State Capitol.

In 1993, after 26-years of Democratic control, the House of Representatives experienced a “shared power arrangement” – a unique 55/55 partisan split. To respect the arrangement, the House members chose co-speakers, who agreed to balance most everything. Co-committee chairs were named, and co-clerks of the House elected. This was my first brush with state government, and it was an amicable time and an encouraging experience.

At the time, the House co-clerks, Mel DeStigter and David Evans, both former long-time legislators, were revamping many aspects of the clerk’s office and were looking to hire non-partisan staff to help serve as committee clerks and parliamentarians. For a recent college graduate interested in the legislative process, it was a great opportunity. I didn’t hesitate to apply. On a snowy day in January, I made the drive from Grand Rapids to Lansing for my interview. The ornate Capitol office where I met with the clerks made it an even more exciting prospect. Upon arriving home that night, I received the offer. One of the most exciting calls I’ve ever gotten. I was to report to the Capitol the following Monday to meet with my new boss, Cath Petrosky, director of the Committee Clerks, and my other committee clerk colleagues.

It was a sunny Monday in early February 1993. Walking into the Capitol, I was shown my desk in the hallway, just outside the committee rooms. Not the most private setting, but there’s something very special about having a Capitol Office. It was at this desk where I learned about the intricate aspects of the legislative process. It was also where I learned about the importance of the lobby corp and the different types of lobbyists – multi-client, corporate, association, non-profit, department liaisons and more. Every industry seemingly had a lobbyist! They were some of the most interesting and experienced people in the Capitol.

My desk phone being the only phone in the area, lobbyists spent a lot of time sitting on my desk, making calls and giving updates to their clients. I wasn’t intentionally eavesdropping but since they used MY desk to conduct their job, I learned how they interacted with their clients and gained a deeper insight on the issues that they worked. After their calls, I would engage them to share stories about their experiences, how they started their careers, who they worked for, and the issues they were lobbying on. They provided great life advice and hilarious stories. I started to feel like an insider.

It was during this time that I met the principles of MLC [Michigan Legislative Consultants]: Tom Cleary, Fritz Benson, and Mike Busch. They were the most dedicated people and extremely passionate about the issues they were working on. They were also some of the most willing to share stories and provide advice, including recommending that I stay the course, learn every aspect of the legislature, and not worry about jumping to the next job too soon.

I did stay the course. Nearly a dozen years later, after gaining experience on non-partisan staff, working for three legislators including helping run leadership offices in both the House and Senate, I left my service to the legislature, departing another Capitol office – one in the Senate Majority Leader’s office with a window overlooking the front lawn.

Thirty years seems like a long time, but in retrospect it has passed with lightning speed. Much has changed in Lansing, but a lot has remained the same. The grandeur of the Capitol still impresses me, and I still find the people who work here interesting and eager to do a good job. I especially enjoy being the old-timer helping provide guidance for those just beginning their careers. Full circle.

Brendan E. Ringlever

About MLC

Michigan Legislative Consultants (MLC) is a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, Michigan. As one of the oldest lobbying firms in Michigan, their experienced team is built on a strong foundation of trust and guided by a drive to help clients succeed. Their team-centered, bipartisan approach allows their lobbyists and procurement specialists to provide a wide range of services for some of the most respected companies across America.

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