Interns keep things running

By Becky GINOS UTAH STATE CAPITOL—During the legislative session lawmakers are always on the go. But behind every one of them there is an intern, helping to keep things running smoothly so the legislators can focus on the task at hand – making laws. “We start about 7 or 8 a.m. and go until 7 or 8 p.m.,” said Danica Topham, an intern for Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. “It’s a long day but I enjoy it.” Topham is a junior at BYU studying political science and business. She’s headed to Washington, D.C. in the summer for another internship. “I wanted to do a local political internship in contrast to D.C. that is more national,” she said. “I interviewed and the coordinator places you with who will be the best fit. He did extremely well. Both of us (Weiler) are very sassy. He’s very personable and genuine so that allows us to joke with each other, which is fun.” Weiler is also a lawyer and Topham is considering the field. “It’s interesting to talk about BYU law school because that is a potential for me.” Over in the House, Anahit Verdyan is doing much the same thing for Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake. Her perspective is a little different since she is from Armenia and came to Utah just a couple of years ago. Verdyan is a junior at the University of Utah studying economics and philosophy. “My family came so I followed them,” she said. “It’s hard to find jobs there (Armenia) and I’ve always wanted to go to school in the U.S.” Verdyan’s father is an engineer and her mother is still in Armenia and runs a business there. “Everything is different here,” she said. “We don’t have internships that allow you to work closely with a legislator. I couldn’t have done this in college there.” The lawmaking process is different in Armenia as well, she said. “We don’t have that information there, you can’t watch video proceedings, etc.,” said Verdyan. “Here legislators meet with constituents in small groups. They don’t do that in Armenia. You would probably have to be in a big group protesting to be heard. They don’t have the ability to affect the law as much – which is sad.” Both women have similar duties. “Normally I prepare for his day,” said Topham. “I give him his agenda and set up floor debates. I track his bills as they move along and make sure they don’t get stuck in committee. On the floor I can run and grab things as he needs them.” “I write a daily status and agenda,” said Verdyan. “I let her know which bills are going to be heard in committee meetings that day and do emails, etc. She also gives me special projects and I organize events.” The internship has been more than Topham had expected. “I was anticipating a 9 to 5 desk job that would be boring in the evenings,” she said. “But I love the work I do here. I’m really invested in it. I’m busy and more heavily involved than I thought I would be.” She said the Martha Cannon statue debate became more important to her than she expected too. “He (Weiler) was very passionate about it,” said Topham. “I almost started crying when it passed. I’d helped him on the speech and it means a lot to a lot of women and others involved.” Going to the governor’s mansion was a highlight for Verdyan. “Where I come from in Armenia we wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet and speak to him,” she said. “I also enjoy going to the meetings, especially the law enforcement. It makes me feel a part of the lawmaking process.” Although things are quite different, Verdyan enjoys Utah. “I like American food, I have adopted it,” she said. “The education system is different here too. You can choose your professor and classes. In Armenia they give you the schedule. I was surprised by the similarities in Utah. We’re also conservative in Armenia.” Verdyan and Topham said the interns all help each other and work well together during the session. “If they’re free they’ll come and help whoever needs it,” said Verdyan. “I appreciate this opportunity. It’s been a really great experience.” Topham agrees. “We all help each other out because we’re all swamped sometimes,” she said. “This is an underrated experience.”


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