Legislative aide sees politics up close

I am completing my second year working for Sen. Ellen Roberts as her legislative aide, starting as an intern through the University of Colorado-Denver in 2011. I became her aide after Charlie Hebler, her former aide, left for Botswana to attend the Peace Corps. After finishing the session last year I was invited back by Sen. Roberts to be her aide for the 2012 session.

I grew up near Del Norte in the San Luis Valley. Although not Senate District 6, the rural way of life is very similar. My family lives on a small farm about an hour from Alamosa, the only town where you can shop for things you need, or eat out at a restaurant.

From K-12 I was homeschooled by my parents, along with my eight other siblings. I had my first classroom experience when I started at Adams State College in Alamosa in the fall of 2008. After completing my freshman year, I was accepted into the National Student Exchange program and attended my sophomore year at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va. I returned from my exchange in 2010 and transferred to the University of Colorado-Denver to complete my degree in political science. I am now a senior and plan to graduate this summer.

The opportunity to work in our state capitol building as a legislative aide as been an amazing experience, enhancing my efforts to obtain my degree in political science. I have had the chance to learn a great deal on the process of our state and how everything that happens here has the potential to affect our everyday lives. I also have learned much more about the history of our state, and the locations of towns and the cultures that have built them. Working as Sen. Roberts’ aide, I talk with people from all over the state, and especially from Senate District 6. Hearing the wide array of issues that people face on a daily basis has helped me more clearly understand concerns and problems that sometimes we are oblivious to.

One of the most surprising things I have learned at the Capitol is not everything is black and white. When the legislators must balance the budget for the year, very tough decisions are made that are not simple yes/no answers. Having to decide where tax dollars are best distributed is really complicated, especially when it may pit two groups like nursing homes and in-home caretakers against each other over who gets the funding if there is not enough for both. A decision must be made, but it is not a simple one.

In general, people carry a negative thought towards politics, sometimes understandably so, but I have been really satisfied to see how open our political system is. Every person has the right to speak on any bill heard in committee, or can observe the legislators as they vote. The Capitol is truly the People’s House of Colorado. Political transparency is something we pride ourselves as Americans, but to see it up close is a great thing.

I am grateful for the opportunity I have been granted by working at the Capitol, and working with a great legislator in Sen. Roberts. I look forward to my future endeavors either here in Denver, or elsewhere.

Ezra Riggs is a legislative aide for state Sen. Ellen Roberts.

Roberts represents Senate District 6 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata, Archuleta, Montrose, San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties. Contact Sen. Roberts by phone at (303) 866-4884, or e-mail ellen.roberts.senate@state.co.us.

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