From the ringing of the voting bell to the loud tour groups, the halls of the Missouri State Capitol are hardly idle in silence during the day. The busy life of the Capitol building during the legislative session doesn’t slow down for anything other than official business. Legislators are working on bills and either creating, revising or collaborating with legislative officials.
“It is fun, it’s interesting, it is educational,” said Lynn Overton, a legislative assistant to Rep. Dave Hinson. “I really enjoy the plethora of people that I work with.”
Overton has been an assistant with the Missouri legislature for seven years. During that time she has assisted two representatives. Overton helps gather information and organizes Hinson’s schedule and committee meetings. She also manages the phone calls, mail and lobbyists that enter the office.
Legislative assistants are constantly meeting with people, scheduling meetings, gathering information, answering phone calls and aiding the legislator when needed. For most employees at the Capitol, every day is different.
“I can honestly tell you that there not a single day that is the same,” said Marietta Routledge, legislative assistant for Elijiah Haar and Lincoln Hough. “I run errands for both representatives, I look up stuff for them; every day is just different for me, but I like the diversity of the job.”
Routledge has been with Missouri government for 18 years. She has worked under five representatives and has even worked in executive leadership. Routledge has enjoyed the different opportunities that her job brings, but most of all she enjoys working and talking with the diverse legislators, lobbyists, children and interns that come through the doors of the office.
Legislative assistants are just some of the people behind the scenes that make legislature happen. The assistants are constantly running and working the office to make their representative or senator’s legislature move in the designated side of the building.
Legislative interns are another group of people that are behind the scenes, working under a senator or representative. The average intern is more than likely a college junior or senior majoring in political science, but every major is welcome to gain experience in the legislative internship program.
“I’ve learned that personalities can make or break a connection for people,” said Bridget Schumer, full-time legislative intern for Sen. David Slater. “For the most part, public opinion about legislators is wrong. They are just regular human beings with really interesting job titles.”
Schumer is a sophomore at Missouri State University studying agricultural communications with an emphasis in public relations and a minor political science.
Schumer encourages the general public to visit the Capitol and interact with their legislators. Her intern duties primarily deal with constituent issues such as phone calls, emails and letters.
“Meeting the people would have to be my favorite part so far of my internship,” Schumer said. “Another part is getting to know the legislative process and the educational part of any internship should be the best part.”
The internship program is both a learning experience as well as a networking opportunity. The interns at the Capitol gain knowledge and hands-on experience they can later apply in their careers. From talking to lobbyists to researching bills, interns also serve as an aid to the legislator.
The most prominent people in the building are the representatives and senators. These people are the primary lawmakers for the Show-Me State. Their duties include making laws, drafting bills and attending sessions and committee meetings. They usually can be found in an office, whether it is their own or a fellow legislator’s. Communication is key with legislators; they are constantly meeting with bill researchers, other legislators, constituents and lobbyists that enter the office.
The building not only houses the legislature but also a museum. This museum is operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The Missouri State Museum holds exhibits and dioramas of soldiers, visual depictions of Missouri’s history, and natural resources and art displays.
The people roaming the halls are important, but the halls themselves are, too. The grand structure, which was built and rebuilt three times in Jefferson City, has a rich history much like the state itself. The building holds just as much information as the people on the inside.
According to the Secretary of State’s website, the original structure was erected in 1823, but a fire in 1837 completely destroyed the building. In 1840, a second building was completed, but yet again a fire took its toll; the building was struck by lightning on the dome, which started the fire. The stone building today was constructed during the World War I period, 1913-1917, and was completed in 1917. The present building has Missouri limestone marble accents in several columns surrounding the structure. On top of the Roman-influenced dome sits the bronze figure of Ceres, goddess of grain, chosen to symbolize the state’s great agricultural heritage. The entire building’s décor is modeled after Roman architecture.
The Capitol is a bustling place, full of energy and life. Behind the old stone walls is lawmaking that will last in Missouri’s history forever. Anyone is welcome to come in and take a free tour during the week, with exceptions on holidays.