I had the pleasant experience of being back in Charlottesville last night to speak at UVA Law School. I was a guest panelist along with Delegates Rob Bell and Bill Janis on “So you want to be a politician.”
(Actually, I would have called it “Future Career Choices for Failed Politicians” and moved it back two weeks. We could have some interested co-panelists …)
The inevitable question from an audience is “how” and “why” do you get into political life. If you don’t know the latter, then you’re probably headed for a very short career. In regard to the “how,” there are a lot of different roads. Here is the story of my former House colleagues:
Bill Janis is from Chicago. He came to Virginia to attend VMI. After graduating, he joined the Navy and spent 10+ years on active duty. Upon retiring, he went to Law School at UVA, graduated in 2000, worked for Delegate (then Congressman) Eric Cantor and ran for Cantor’s open House seat in 2000. He lost that race but came back the next year, after redistricting, and won a seat from the retiring Earl Dickinson (D-Louisa).
Rob Bell was born in California but grew up in the Shenandoah Valley. He graduated from UVA Law School in 1995 and worked for 5+ years as a local prosecutor, while becoming active in central Virginia Republican politics. When a House seat held by Paul Harris (R-Albemarle) came open in 2001, he ran and won.
In my case, I graduated from UVA Law in 1994 and moved back to my hometown to start a practice. I joined the Democratic Committee and the local rugby club soon thereafter. The rest is kind of a blur. However, I do remember standing on a lot of porches and walking in a lot of parades.
Most the students that attended are interested in public policy and how it works. You have to enjoy that to succeed. Most importantly, you have to like people. Because you’re going to meet a lot of them.