Michael ‘MJ’ Jackson
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Role: Assistant coordinator of committee operations for the Senate of Virginia
Years of legislative service: Five
NCSL connection: Jackson is a graduate of NCSL’s 2021 Legislative Staff Certificate Program.
Best professional advice he’s been given: “Remember, what you do for one member, you have to do for all 39 other members.”
Why did you choose to work at the legislature?
Serendipity. While I was always interested in the political arena, I don’t think I ever envisioned a career in it. I came to work at the Senate of Virginia as a session employee working mainly in the supply and mail room in 2017. Immediately after the session ended, we moved from our home in the General Assembly building to a temporary one so that our building could be torn down and replaced. Thanks to Jennifer Welch, my supervisor at the time, and Susan Clarke Schaar, the clerk of the Senate, I was kept on post-session to help with that transition and was later able to fill a full-time opening when it became available.
What skill or talent are you most proud of?
The skill or talent that I’m most proud of is, surprisingly, my parenting. I’m a great dad! Who would’ve thunk it?! Now, my son is only 7 so we may have to revisit this topic when he hits his teen years to see if it still holds up. But, for now ... parenting. Final answer!
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
The best advice I was ever given about being in the legislature was, “Remember, what you do for one member, you have to do for all 39 other members.” This was the simplest and most straightforward advice that I’ve been able to apply to almost all aspects of my job. It’s a reminder of our nonpartisan status and our drive to always remain fair and impartial no matter the weight of an issue.
If you mean, “What’s the best advice I’ve ever been given in life?” the answer would be, “Accept people for who they are, where they are.” It allows me to give people the grace to be themselves just as I always hope that people would extend the same grace to me. I want to be me and not the image of who you think I should be.
Who or what inspires you?
Every single person on the Senate of Virginia staff inspires me. You can see the pride, energy and expertise that each person on staff puts into making sure the process works well for the legislators and the people of Virginia.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
What I love about Virginia is the fact that it seems to be a “Baby Bear” state—everything seems to be “just right!” We’ve got all the seasons and weather conditions. We’ve got mountains and beaches and everything in between.
What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?
Currently, when I have time, I find myself spiraling deep into rabbit holes of any gardening-related videos on YouTube. However, I find myself particularly drawn to Charles Dowding videos. I’ve been itching to put my hands into soil, sprout seeds and get my garden ready for planting since the first day of January!
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.