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Sunday, February 5, 2023

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Mayor Parker brings advice to CHIP interns, highlights participation


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Mayor Annise Parker visited students at the Hobby Center for Public Policy’s Civic Houston Internship Program’s class on Friday and discussed local government and volunteering. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Mayor Annise Parker visited UH as the special guest for the Hobby Center for Public Policy’s Civic Houston Internship Program’s class Friday. She spoke to interns on her experience in public service, her role as a mayor and how the younger generation can partake in making a positive change in government.

So far, the program has placed over 1,000 interns in local political offices. This fall, 24 students will get the chance to work in offices with elected officials at the municipal, county, state or federal levels.

Some of the programs involve volunteering in community organization programs and campaigns, averaging eight hours per week over the 15-week semester.

Parker said she ultimately earned her position by being “the queen of volunteering.”

“I have been working in public service for 18 years,” Parker said. “I think local government is the highest level of government and the most important. There’s nothing more fundamental than what cities do.”

Parker spoke about her role in public service and the tools it takes for one to make a direct difference.

“Many people think of government as something that is out there, but it is us. Government is controlled by the people who show up. (If not enough people show up), that gives disproportionate power to people who do get involved,” said Parker. “Find a cause you’re passionate about, and show up.”

Parker expressed concerned about the lack of participation from the younger generation when it came to certain issues like voting.

Parker said the voting rates are abysmal. This program gives those students chances for involvement that might transition into a higher participatory rate.

“(The interns) learn the importance of public service and how everyone sees the public official, but the work is done at a staff level. You can have as much of an impact as a staffer or administrator as you can as a public official,” she said.

Political science senior Ana Montanez is a returning intern who works for council member Ed Gonzalez from District H City Council. Last semester she had the chance to work for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.

“There is such a great opportunity that this internship program offers us that no class can fully explain in-depth,” Montanez said. “We get to be directly involved with the program and work to makes a difference for the city.”

Montanez recently found out she was accepted into the Leland Fellows in Washington, which will start next semester.

Montanez found that Parker’s visit offered a refreshing view of politicians.

“(Parker) gave a humanistic aspect of a woman who cares about the city. She’s just human, just like the rest of us. Seeing her talk so honestly about the obstacles she faced while being Mayor and the years of being in office inspired me,” Montanez said. “I want to help my city and stray away from the distrusting perception that citizens have of prominent political figures, we really need that accountability and credibility to work together.”

Mayor Parker’s term will come to an end by the end of the year, and Cross’ students were curious to know what will be her next step.

“I’ll be looking for something to do, as of now, I don’t have any political plans. I’m not interested in being a member of Congress,” Parker said.

As for advice for those aspiring to work in public service? Parker said to volunteer and  find your interest to start engaging.

“I can tell you who stayed up all night in the city council campaigns, those who were with me all the way,” she said. “Many of them, I turned around and hired.”

CORRECTION: Sheila Jackson Lee was originally identified as a councilwoman and the Leland Fellows was identified as the Leland Fellowship.

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