Welcome back to our “6 questions” series where we ask someone 6 career-centric questions about themselves.
This week we’re chatting with Amber Milenkevich, Legislative Director at U.S. House of Representatives.
What is your job title & what do you do day-to-day?
I am the Legislative Director for Representative Al Lawson of Florida who represents a large portion of the Florida/Georgia line!
My day-to day is far from a typical 9-5 desk job as I always need to be ready for anything, anytime of day – it’s really a 24/7 kind of job. The world continues to throw unexpected curveballs at us, and it’s my job to react quickly to overcome those challenges whether that means I need to work with our Communications Director to produce a statement or stay up late to monitor last minute votes.
But, most of my time is spent overseeing what we call the “ledge shop” where all legislation that the Congressman sponsors is created and written, along with research and implementation of any other legislative projects. I also help make decisions to cosponsor other members’ bills or letters to department heads, put together briefings and roundtables, advise on vote recommendations, and write memos for the Financial Service Committee, which he sits on.
Besides helping shape my boss’s platform in respect to legislation I also take multiple meetings a day with constituents, organizations, non-profits, and lobbyists.
When did you know you wanted to get into politics and how did you land your role with the U.S. House of Representatives?
I’d be lying if I said that I always knew I wanted to be in politics. I wanted to be a chef and almost went to culinary school before a last-minute change of heart lead me to Florida State University where I majored in International Relations. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I discovered my passion for politics after landing an internship at a lobbying firm in Tallahassee. I made a ton of connections through the lobbying firm which ultimately led me to my first “real” job after college as the lead fundraiser for the Al Lawson Congressional Campaign. I must have done a good job because we won the race and the Congressman offered me a full-time position in D.C. I started as the Staff Assistant, the lowest on the totem pole, and worked my way up to become his Legislative Director.
What did your role look like before the election and how has your day to day changed post-election?
It’s an exciting time for Democrats as we took back control of the White House and Senate! However, my role won’t change too much after Biden officially takes office on January 20th. My responsibilities will remain the same, although I will be busier than ever with the changing administration and there will be a larger push for new legislation to support the agenda of the President-elect. My inbox is already exploding with requests – in politics, when you gain power – or control of congress – people start asking for more and expecting more from you.
What’s something someone might not know about your role?
The Legislative Director is a senior level position in every office on Capitol Hill and before moving to D.C., I didn’t realize that many of those roles are predominantly filled by young adults who are only a few years out of college. There really is an opportunity to young professionals to hold important positions within the government and effect change. We’re the ones behind the scenes helping congresspeople to write and shape legislation that can benefit the communities we are serving.
Most rewarding part of your role? Most challenging?
The most challenging aspect of my job is having to cope with the state of our country; with wealth and racial disparities and our political divisions growing, it can be difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel. We always want to do right by our constituents but with the growing divide, it can sometimes feel impossible.
On the other hand, we have constituents from all different backgrounds that rely on us to represent their voices in D.C. and to make the best decision for them and their families when it comes to votes and creating legislation. So, when I receive a phone call or an email from a constituent thanking our team, it’s very rewarding and a good reminder that what we’re doing is important – that’s why I continue to serve the public.
If someone is interested in working in politics, specifically at the U.S. House of Representatives, what advice would you give them?
Politics can be a dog-eat-dog world and you must be tough and able to take rejection – it can take time to get a job on Capitol Hill, so you have to be motivated and ready to put in the work. A good place to start is looking for a job or volunteering on a campaign this way you can learn what it takes to work in politics and make sure it’s the right fit you for. It’s also the perfect way to make connections that will really come in handy if you’re looking to a role on the Hill. The connections you make will be a huge factor in getting in the door, but your positive personality and drive will be what gets you hired and what keeps you there!
I am Amber Milenkevich and I am the Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Al Lawson. In my (limited) spare time, I am a spin instructor and a sales associate for Bash Boxing – I am passionate about fitness! I look forward to seeing where my career in government takes me, especially now that Biden is POTUS! Feel free to DM me @Bersyber for career advice or to learn more about my role!