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Staff Snapshots | Matt Gehring

March 11, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print

Matt Gehring

Hometown: Eau Claire, Wis.

Role: Staff coordinator and attorney, Minnesota House Research Department. Gehring also serves on NCSL’s Executive Committee and Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee.

Years of legislative service: 15

Number of national parks and monuments he’s camped, hiked or visited: 180-plus

 

Why did you choose to work at the Legislature?

A law school course on statutory construction exposed me to legislative drafting and the legislative process—two endlessly fascinating logic puzzles. At the time, it never occurred to me that that kind of work could be a viable career path, particularly for someone without deep political connections. But when I saw a job posting for a temporary legislative analyst position at the Minnesota House Research Department, something clicked and I knew I had to go all-in to try and land the job.

What skill or talent are you most proud of?

Professionally, I like the challenge of taking the thread of a loosely defined policy concept and weaving it into a viable statute that reflects a member’s request. It’s a skill that takes time to learn to do well.

Personally, I’ve been known to be a good baker and can carve a mean Halloween pumpkin.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

An aggregation of advice from multiple places: Be a good listener. Be open to hearing others’ stories and experiences without judgment.

As nonpartisan staff, it can be easy to dismiss the “soft” skills of listening and empathy out of fear that we might appear partisan or too emotionally involved. When I draft a bill I want it to be technically precise, but I also want it to channel the voice of the member so that it tells the story that the member wants it to tell. I do that best when I can use bits of information I’ve learned over time: about the member, about the member’s district, or about the interest or experience of the constituent group the bill is intended to serve.

Who or what inspires you?

I have a hard time being inspired by famous people or things. Many members of my family are inspirational in their own ways. When I was young my Great-Aunt Gerry taught me to be curious about the world, and to recognize basic aspects of humanity, dignity, and respect in yourself and others. I appreciate those values more and more as I grow older. I keep a picture of her in my office.

What’s one thing you love about your state?

It’s very Minnesotan to talk about the weather, but I really like that we have four distinct seasons. As long as you own enough sweaters, even the cold ones are spectacular. Camping on the North Shore of Lake Superior in the fall can’t be beat.

What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?

I’ve recently been binge-watching “Yellowstone” and a PBS show called “All Creatures Great and Small,” which is about a veterinarian trying to find his way in a rural Scottish town in the 1930s. My playlists are an eclectic mix: Broadway show tunes, bluegrass/indie folk, country and (shameless plug but true) NCSL’s podcast series “Building Democracy,” on the history of legislatures.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

For its “Staff Snapshots” series, State Legislatures News is asking legislative staff about their role in the legislature. If you’d like to suggest a staffer for this series, please email Holly South at NCSL.

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