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Ellen Goatley, a 2011 graduate of Washington County High School, may have just found the spark to take on a career in politics. While the University of Kentucky junior isn’t completely sure of what her career plans will be, she’s using this summer’s internship at U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie’s office as a learning experience.
Goatley, the daughter of Greg and Margaret Goatley of Springfield, recently completed a four-week internship that allowed her to live and work in Washington D.C. She got the opportunity after applying for the position online following some helpful parental advice.
“I knew I wanted to do an internship in Washington D.C., and I was lucky to get the opportunity to work in (Guthrie’s) office,” Goatley said. My mom interned in Washington D.C. during college and encouraged me to apply for internships.”
Goatley said she had some nerves about moving to the nation’s capital for a month, but that she was quickly made to feel at home.
“Thankfully, on my first day I was put at ease when I was given a warm Kentucky welcome by Congressman Guthrie and all of his staffers,” she said. “Everyone in Congressman Guthrie’s office was extremely down to Earth and very helpful to me. His staff, almost all of which are Kentuckians, showed great southern hospitality to me and to all visitors to his office. He tries very hard to meet with every visitor from Kentucky, and I don’t think all congressmen make that kind of effort.”
Goatley stayed in the Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis dorm on the campus of George Washington University, which she said was in a great location to catch the metro for a quick ride to Capitol Hill each day. She also said that her responsibilities varied, which kept the job interesting throughout.
She was able to attend intern lectures from House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Rand Paul, Reps. John Lewis, Paul Ryan and others, took phone calls, gave tours of the Capital building, attended briefings with staff, among other duties.
She learned a lot about what it takes to run a Congressional office, and said the stresses of the position didn’t scare her away, despite taking some “interesting” calls.
“Trying to please everyone is impossible, and is more than a full-time job,” Goatley said. “People are very demeaning of their representative. The Congressman listens to all sides of the issues before voting and does take constituent opinions seriously. This made me respect politicians, and heightened my interest in possibly working in a Congressional office in the future.”
Though she kept busy throughout the week, Goatley said she was able to take in the sights on the weekends. She visited Washington D.C. when she was younger, but she didn’t appreciate it as much as she did this time around. Goatley said she visited the various monuments multiple times, as well as numerous museums, Annapolis and Arlington Cemetery. She was even able to walk around the outside of the White House and took in a Washington Nationals baseball game.
“One day while at work, as I was walking a tour group to the Capital, I saw President (Barack) Obama’s motorcade pull up and park underneath the Capital steps,” she said. “I caught a glimpse of him and was close enough to touch the presidential limousine, ‘The Beast.’”
Goatley, who majors in history at UK, said it’s still to be determined where her life after college takes her, but that her experience this summer has had an impact on her career outlook.
“I am a history major, so obviously all of the history of D.C. amazed me, but more than that, this experience definitely sparked my interest in politics,” she said. “I loved the D.C. experience. I like and respect how the staffers in the Congressman’s office know, and how they deal with issues and questions that they face. I can’t emphasize enough how hard they work and how passionate they are about representing their district.”
Goatley said she hasn’t ruled out plans to try another internship, even leaving open the possibility to return to Guthrie’s office. Another possibility she said she would consider is moving from the House of Representatives to intern at an office in the Senate, to learn more about the other half of Congress.
“I’m not sure as of right now, but I would love to go back to Washington D.C. and highly recommend it,” she said.