Skip to main content

Staff Snapshots | Holly Vaughn Wagner

January 13, 2022

Hometown: Dover, Del.

Role: Deputy director and legislative attorney for the Division of Research, Delaware General Assembly

Years of legislative service: Seven

What inspires her: “I’m inspired by the desire to be a small, positive piece of the Delaware General Assembly’s history.”

Why did you choose to work at the legislature?

When I graduated law school, I knew litigating wasn’t my thing, but I didn’t think I had any other options. My first job out of law school was clerking for a judge, where I realized how much I love writing and researching. My first role in the Division of Research was as a research analyst, and I was excited to find a job that paid me to do what I love, used my legal education and continued my career in public service. It was a perfect fit.

What skill or talent are you most proud of?

Attorneys get a well-earned reputation for making things sound or read far more complicated than necessary, but I think I’m pretty good at using simpler language to convey complex concepts. In the division, we try to forward the trend of writing laws with language accessible to all, not just those who live and breathe legalese.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

“It may not be how you would do things, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” This wasn’t given in the context of work, but it applies. Not only does it remind me that I can’t (and shouldn’t) control everything, but over time it’s made me much more aware that everyone has their own experiences to shape their decision-making, and that we should give each other the space to have different ideas or methods. In that space, I learn a lot from others.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by the desire to be a small, positive piece of the Delaware General Assembly’s history. In a sense, legislative staff are temporary guardians of our institutions, and while our names may not make the history books, the work we do keeps our legislatures going for future generations. I want my work to respect the General Assembly’s history, honor it while I’m here, and prepare it for its future.

What’s one thing you love about your state?

Because we’re small, it’s common to have a connection with strangers, which creates a sense of community and tempers animosity among people with opposing views. In both our legislative and legal communities, you’ll see people argue their positions during the workday and then join each other to celebrate University of Delaware football, lament the removal of the iconic Dolle’s Salt Water Taffy sign from the boardwalk, or correct out-of-staters when they mispronounce Lewes, Frederica, Leipsic or Newark. (All due respect to New Jersey, ours is pronounced “NEW-ark.”)

What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?

I would love to answer with something that makes me sound refined and erudite, but I tend to relax by rewatching “The Office” for the millionth time or listening to podcasts that recap “90 Day Fiancé.” My favorite podcast, though, is “How Did This Get Made?” Anyone who’s interested in listening to a comedic discussion of bad movies should check it out.

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. To suggest a staffer for this series, please use the email icon above to contact Holly South.

  • Contact NCSL

  • For more information on this topic, use this form to reach NCSL staff.