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.
Jimmetta Gourdine, on the right in the photo above, and her daughter Jessica Brown both work for the Alabama Legislature. Jimmetta, who has served with the legislature for 21 years, is director of Senate security and past president of the National Legislative Services and Security Association (NLSSA). Jessica is an administrative assistant with the Legislative Services Agency, Fiscal Division, where she has worked for more than four years. She is also a graduate of the inaugural Legislative Staff Certificate Program, a monthlong training series that began in 2020 for newer staff who seek to gain a broader context about state legislatures.
Can you share a memorable experience from the legislature?
Jimmetta: I’m always in awe of the persistence and passion displayed by interest groups and organizations in their attempt to influence public policy.
What’s your earliest memory of the legislature?
Jessica: When I was in junior high school, I was in the Alabama Senate Page Program. I remember being in awe of the legislative process in its entirety and wanting to be a part of the process. I remember how honored and nervous I was to lead the Alabama Senate in the opening ceremony in the Pledge of Allegiance. Kay Ivey was the lieutenant governor when I was a page, and she reassured me that I was ready to lead.
What did you think of your mom’s job while you were growing up?
Jessica: There was no prouder daughter than I as a child. I loved, respected, and wanted to be just like my mother. Forget Barbie dolls, I wanted to be a crime-fighting, uniform-wearing hero like my mother. When my mother retired from the police department in Montgomery, Ala., I was sad. I felt as if I was losing my police family. However, I knew of the importance of my mother’s new job, working for the legislature, and I was excited for her to begin this new career chapter in her life. I always felt as if I was living vicariously through her.
What example has she set for you?
Jessica: My mother is my hero. At a very young age, I witnessed my mother running into a burning house in her police uniform to save a man’s life before she took me to school. I stood in agony, as each second felt like an eternity. In a child’s perspective, you can imagine how I considered her to be a superhero in that moment. My mother has faced numerous adversities in her life, such as becoming the first African American female major in the history of the Montgomery Police Department, and many other accolades. She continues to lead by example, by instilling in me integrity, respect, having a hard work ethic and the importance of education. But most importantly, she has shown me love and how to walk by faith, and not by sight.
Did you encourage Jessica to pursue work in the legislature?
Jimmetta: I am always supportive of Jessica’s life pursuits; however, I did not play a role in her pursuing this line of work.
What about Jessica do you think makes her suited for it?
Jimmetta: Jessica is a person of good character and has experienced the legislative process as a young teen serving as a page, as a college intern and in the Senate Bill Processing Office.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
Jimmetta: The golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In all that you do, show respect.
Jessica: With God all things are possible. I was also taught a Bible verse, which has become a life motto of mine: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future,” from Proverbs 31:25.
What skill or talent are you most proud of?
Jimmetta: My resilience in the face of adversities. Both good and bad situations are building blocks on the road to success.
Jessica: My optimism gives me strength to make a way out of “no way.” My lessons made blessings.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
Jimmetta: Alabama is home. I have travel experiences worldwide and would rather live nowhere else.
Jessica: The University of Alabama. I am a proud alumna of the University of Alabama. Roll Tide!
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.