Where Are They Now? Mary Harding, 1998 Session Assistant
1. When did you participate in the Undergraduate Session Assistants Program or Senate Fellowship?
I participated in the Undergraduate Session Assistant Program starting in January 1998.
2. Which Senate office were you placed in during your internship?
I was placed in the Office of Senator Joseph Holland, who represented Rockland County.
3. Briefly describe your responsibilities/day-to-day activities in your internship office placement.
I assisted with responding to constituent correspondence, drafting bill memos for the Social Services Committee, maintaining Legislative Tracking reports, and attending Session with the Senator. I worked closely with the Committee Staff to support the review of Legislation referred to the Committee for consideration, and to develop Committee Agendas. I was invited to participate in meetings with constituents and advocacy groups as well.
At the end of my internship, I was asked to continue working for the Senator’s Office as a Legislative Assistant for several months until Senator Holland left office.
4. Where are you working now? Briefly describe your responsibilities/day-to-day activities in your current place of employment.
I am currently working for the New York State Department of Transportation as a Senior Transportation Analyst. I work in our Project Management Office overseeing training for the Department’s project scheduling software and reporting software. I am also intimately involved with the procurement for the Department’s Design-Build projects. I write Requests for Qualifications, which are used to develop a Short List of teams who have the qualifications to compete for each project. I also coordinate and facilitate meetings with the teams after the Request for Proposals is issued, and oversee the presentations provided to evaluation committees after teams have submitted their proposals for review by the Department.
I also participate in our Incident Command System when the Department is engaged in significant storm event responses (heavy snow storms, spring flooding, hurricanes/tropical storms) that impact the transportation system. We provide awareness to our Executive Management of the transportation system status and the department’s response efforts to ensure everyone is aware of what resources are committed and where we may have additional capacity to assist others. During these events, we coordinate closely with other agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.
5. What did you learn from participating in the New York State Senate internship programs that you have been able to carry over to your new position?
After working in the Legislature for 7 years, and in the Governor’s Office for 2 years following that, I came to the Department of Transportation. Much like the fast-paced environment that comes with the Legislative Session and State Budget negotiations, many of the projects I work on now are priority projects, requiring intricate attention to detail in a rapidly evolving, and sometimes politically sensitive atmosphere. My time in the State Legislature provided me with the skills to interact with industry groups and elected officials in a professional way, while also understanding the genesis for many of the requests they make to the agency. Networking experiences and opportunities also carry over: many of the people and groups I worked with then are still in many of the circles I continue to associate with now.
The internship program was well organized with a focus not only on the legislative process, but also on preparing students for future employment; one instance is the emphasis on how to dress appropriately daily, and understanding that Friday doesn’t mean meetings won’t pop up unexpectedly. Always be prepared to represent yourself and your office in the best possible way.