Week 1 – Punching holes in darkness

In preparation for the legislative session, I hired staff, moved into the Capitol and began meeting with community stakeholders on the bills I’ve initiated for this session. I was incredibly fortunate to hire two extremely talented individuals to manage my office, Donna and Mary. Donna has worked for 4 State Senators over 13 years and carries a deep institutional knowledge of how the building functions. She will be responsible for managing my schedule and keeping me organized for the legislative session. As a small business owner in Adams County, Mary has deep ties in Senate District 21. She is new to the legislative process but she understands our community from a lived perspective. She will assist me with constituent services and outreach. If you need a tour, would like to attend a community town hall, or have an issue/question you’d like for me to address, please connect with Mary and she’ll make sure I respond.

In my second stroke of luck, I was paired to share an office with State Senator Angela Giron (SD 3), a progressive champion from Pueblo. She has been an incredible friend and mentor and I know that we will work closely to help build an economy that works for everyone in Colorado. Our office (room 339) is highly coveted in the Capitol because we are next door to one of the few bathrooms in the building. This means we can use the facilities when needed, but it also means that Senators line up outside of our door, which gives us time to socialize and connect on pending legislation. It’s amazing how persuasive I can be with a captive audience!

On Wednesday, January 9, 2013, I took the oath of office to be the next Senator for District 21. Surrounded by family, friends and neighbors made me realize how much responsibility I have to my community. People are counting on me to get their voices heard, and I am deeply honored that you trust me to fight the good fight.

As a freshman, I was given the honor to escort Governor John Hickenlooper to his State of the State address and I was able to sit with him on stage in the House chamber. The Governor is affable and charming, not through his grace but his humanity. He stumbled various times throughout his speech, and I realized he was as nervous as I was to be in front of this crowd full of expectation. His voice filled with emotion and cracked the various times he described the Aurora shooting and the wildfire tragedies. He finished his speech with these words that struck me at my core:

“When I was a kid I loved adventure stories. Being dyslexic meant that reading was a challenge, but I could still get carried off by a great writer. Robert Louis Stevenson was a favorite. I later heard a story about Stevenson’s childhood in 19th century Scotland. At night, he would peer from his window and watch lamplighters go about their job. Climbing tall ladders, carrying torches, the lamplighters would light the street lamps one after another. The process fascinated young Stevenson. One night, as he watched with growing fascination, his father asked what he was doing. Excitement in his voice, Stevenson said, ‘Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!’

Punching holes in the darkness.

When you think about it, there is nothing more rewarding than punching holes in darkness. The young entrepreneur punches a hole in darkness when she sells a product that creates a job. The dry land farmer on the Eastern Plains punches holes in darkness every time he harvests a crop. Missy Franklin punches holes in the darkness by inspiring a new generation of athletes. Teachers punch holes in darkness every day. Whenever a child learns something new, light emerges in that child’s life.

This past year we saw lamplighters all around us.

We can all be lamplighters … working together, we can punch some pretty big holes in the darkness.”

I spent my earliest years of life in the Lamplighter Trailer Park, which now feels a bit like fate. I believe I was sent to the Capitol to “punch holes in the darkness” by finding solutions that work for the people of Colorado.

As I head into the next week of the session, I will carry with me the Governor’s charge and these haunting words from civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois:

 “Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year.” W.E.B. DuBois

 With light,
Jessie

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