Kathleen ‘Kathy’ Patterson
Hometown: Washington, D.C., and if you mean birthplace, Porterville, Calif.
Role: D.C. auditor, head of the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor, Washington, D.C.
Years of legislative service: Elected to three terms (12 years) on the D.C. Council, then appointed nearly eight years ago to serve as D.C. auditor, considered part of the legislative branch of D.C. government.
Who inspires her: “My two grown children, who’ve gone from a privileged upbringing to careers and personal lives where they are giving back—working with severely ill children in one instance and working for renewable energy in the other!”
Why did you choose to work at the legislature?
I ran for the D.C. Council (a combo city, county and state legislature) in 1994 as a public school activist when the District was nearly bankrupt, and did so to protect funding for critical services like schools. I represented one of eight wards, then ran citywide to serve as Council chairman in 2006 and lost. I returned to government as D.C. auditor (named and confirmed by the Council) to continue working to strengthen the work of the legislature, both oversight and legislation. (Between D.C. stints I worked at Pew and helped manage the partnership with NCSL!)
What skill or talent are you most proud of?
My ability to strategize on the best way to accomplish critical goals, and to work pragmatically with people and circumstances as they are and not as we wish them to be.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
To listen and employ “interest-based bargaining,” a labor term that is hugely useful in all walks of life but especially in bringing together individuals with divergent viewpoints—to look for commonality and a place of consensus to work forward from.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
The history—the good, the bad and the ugly. The privilege of being at President Obama’s inauguration, and at the anniversaries of the March on Washington.
What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?
I read my daily newspaper, The Economist to stay current on world events and The New Yorker to be more generally informed. When traveling by car, I look up where to find NPR in each city I’ll drive through. I’m streaming “Endeavour” right now.
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.