Acknowledge outstanding achievements and innovation practices.
My role as a legislative aide consists of managing the Senator’s schedule and assisting our constituents in LD7. When a constituent calls us with an issue they’re having with a state agency or need help with an ongoing problem such as unemployment or housing, I will engage with our department legislative liaisons or the county Board of Social Services, and other non-profit providers to get them the assistance they need. Additionally, I will often staff the Senator at both in-person and virtual events including his monthly “Serve with Senator Singleton” volunteer events. Being in a district office is a great way to build connections and develop understandings on how multiple sectors of government operate.
Amongst many of my interests, one of my biggest passions is animals. Knowing I wanted to work with them was a no-brainer, but never knowing exactly where to start was a challenge. At one point, becoming a veterinarian crossed my mind, but decided advocating by bringing justice to light to protect animals from cruelty was my calling. I figured why not start where laws are created. The legislature. Most people cringe when discussing some of the harsh realities behind this. But, if nothing is addressed, nothing changes. Offering my voice to defend the creatures of the world that society depends on is crucial. To this end, Senator Singleton has been a vocal animal advocate, and has written many bills and laws in this space related to shark fins, cat declawing, and Moose’s Law among others.
What work are you proud of?
Multiple requests from constituents coming into a legislative office, whether related to a bill or personal issue one is facing, puts into perspective hardships some may stumble upon. The year 2020 and the continuation into 2021 is nothing anyone would have ever expected. The countless number of hours, emails, phone calls, and meetings Senator Singleton’s team has encountered definitely portrays what our office is here for, which is our constituents, or as the Senator says, our bosses. Helping constituents with dire housing needs and unemployment has been the most exhausting yet rewarding challenge. One story that specifically comes to mind was helping a family in need right before the holiday season. This family was experiencing multiple hardships such as seeking housing, social services support and disability support along with child support and custody. While networking and brainstorming with colleagues, our office was able to successfully secure affordable housing through a local non-profit organization, help said parent obtain social services funds, and help said parent claim custody as a caregiver. The outcome was remarkable and inspirational. Anything can be achieved with perseverance and teamwork.
Aside from working on constituent casework, I’ve been presented with the opportunity to engage in different aspects of policy. In early 2021, the N.J. Senate Commerce Committee held a meeting discussing multiple bills, one of them being bill S1726 which prohibits the sale of cosmetic products that have been tested on animals. Both the N.J. State Director of HSUS and I requested Senator Singleton to sign on as a co-sponsor. Without hesitation, he said yes among many other senators and assembly members. Researching, presenting a supporting/opposing case to a legislator regarding a bill (or any idea in mind), and asking to sponsor a bill are great first steps that can lead to major significant change.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
One thing I love about our state is the proximity to everything and anything! Whether wanting to visit the Jersey shores, beautiful farmland that aids in making us the Garden State, or cities such as, Jersey City, Hoboken, New York City, or in my case Philadelphia, it’s only a car or train ride away. There’s so much to explore, so much culture, and so much diversity.
As someone so new to the legislature:
What’s the most unexpected/helpful thing you’ve learned?
There are so many avenues to government I didn’t even know existed. When exploring interests, I have learned to choose a few as a starting point. Staying involved, focused, and connected to those who can help guide you in the right direction help tremendously. You would be surprised at how many others have similar interests and who is willing to help. The possibilities are endless!
What advice would you offer to someone walking in on their first day at a state legislature?
Make sure you are working with a purpose and towards some type of goal, even if you’re still trying to figure it out. Keep an open mind, network like crazy, try new opportunities that come your way, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or suggestions.
How can seasoned legislative staff help introduce newer staff to the legislature?
Be personable and kind. We were all new at one point. Encourage your new staffer to become active and engaged within the legislative process, introduce them to others, listen to their ideas, and be a helping hand.