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Staff Snapshots | Kate Heltzel

Dec. 2, 2021 | State Legislatures News | Print

Kate Heltzel

Hometown: Philip, S.D.

Role: Director, Unicameral Information Office, Nebraska Legislature

Years of service: 15

Best professional advice she’s ever received: “If you want to be sure that you understand something, try explaining it to someone else.”

 

Why did you choose to work at the Legislature?

I feel like the Legislature chose me. I came to Nebraska to get a master’s degree in political science and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I was working a temp job for the state when they asked me to interview for a position with the Legislature’s public information office. The job is a mixture of writing, editing, working with the public and having a front-row seat for policy discussions. I loved it from the start.

What skill or talent are you most proud of?

I was told recently that I seem able to find common ground with just about anyone. I was a little surprised by that assessment but happy to hear it. I credit growing up as the youngest of 10 kids in a very small house. You learn to adapt quickly!

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

On a personal level? That we’re all guaranteed to fail at something at some point. Don’t let the fear of failing paralyze you—the important thing is how you handle it. On a professional level? If you want to be sure that you understand something, try explaining it to someone else. If you’re not sure that your writing is clear, try reading it out loud.

Who or what inspires you?

My partner. He has a demanding job and is a member of the city council (in Lincoln, Neb.). This is a tough time to be an elected official and watching him handle that pressure and remain a kind, empathetic and generous person and public servant is endlessly inspiring to me.

What’s one thing you love about your state.

Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is a quote from Nebraska author Willa Cather: “Anybody can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” There is beauty on the plains that can be a little tough to see for those who aren’t from here—a graduate school friend from Pennsylvania referred to it as “the great flat, flat”—but there is movement and magic in a pristine expanse of prairie. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when wishing I was on a beach or in the mountains.

What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?

I just started Colson Whitehead’s “Harlem Shuffle.” It’s a departure from other works of his that I’ve read and loved, but it’s excellent so far. I am listening to so many podcasts! During session, I often need a quick lap around the rotunda to center myself, and podcasts are great for that. Current favorites include “Code Switch,” “We Can Do Hard Things” and “Judge John Hodgman.” To ease my “Ted Lasso” withdrawal, I’m watching “Insecure,” “Succession” and, of course, “The Great British Baking Show.”

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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