Monday, February 18, 2002

Intern gets view from the top

NKU's Wice aids speaker

By Stephenie Steitzer
Enquirer Contributor

        FRANKFORT — Josh Wice doesn't mind opening mail for Kentucky Speaker of the House Jody Richards.

        It's a typical intern duty, but the Northern Kentucky University senior believes doing even mundane tasks for a politician with such stature is worth it.

        “It's a good experience and I don't mind doing the letters, I really don't,” Mr. Wice said. “I like the interaction.”

        The 22-year-old Edgewood Democrat and the only Northern Kentucky intern at the state capitol this session spends Tuesday and Thursday mornings reading an average of 200 letters and e-mail in the speaker's Capitol annex office, Room 303A.

        He and three other interns — David Johnson, Sean Ishmael and Bo Howell — write responses to constituents ranging from college students and food service workers to retirees.

        All the letters and replies are eventually read and signed by the speaker himself.

        “Thankfully, I don't sit in the office all day,” Mr. Wice said. “I get to walk around, meet people, meet different groups.”

        The rest of the time he and other interns, who make about $10 an hour, help constituents who are visiting for the day, sit in on House sessions and do a score of other tasks for the Bowling Green Democrat.

        “Josh Wice is an outstanding young man and he's been a super intern,” Mr. Richards said. “He's outstanding, he's capable and I'm really proud to have him down.”

        One Tuesday afternoon Mr. Wice had to smooth things over with a group of visiting American Cancer Society members who were expecting to meet the speaker. Mr. Richards had to cancel at the last minute because representatives were close to a decision on redistricting. Kentucky's new election districts needed to be drawn and the campaign filing deadline was looming.

        The members seemed understanding and Mr. Wice explained the problem to group leaders in a calm, apologetic manner.

        The tall, clean-shaven intern has high hopes of becoming a state senator or representative in the next five or 10 years. Anyone judging him by the sharp-looking baby-blue silk tie and neatly pressedpants might already think he is one.

        Mr. Wice is the first Northern Kentucky University student to be elected president of the state's College Democrats. That honor is usually held by students from institutions like the University of Kentucky, Transylvania University or the University of Louisville.

        Walking around the state Capitol grounds, Mr. Wice already has the contacts and communication skills to be a politician.

        “How ya doin'?,” he asks a female acquaintance as they pass outside the Capitol annex.

        Mr. Wice plans to graduate with a bachelor's degree in political science and criminal justice in May, then obtain a job somehow related to politics.

        So far, Mr. Wice has two goals if he is ever elected: Generating an interest in politics in young people and promoting cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.

        “College kids don't care about partisanship,” he said. “What they see, in general, it disheartens them.”

        Mr. Wice has been working hard since his sophomore year of college to spark an interest in government and politics in young people.

        After volunteering for U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas' campaign, Mr. Wice and a few friends revived the College Democrats club at NKU. He then went on to become the president of the Kentucky-wide College Democrats and a member of a slew of other political and leadership organizations.

        Mr. Wice said he saw the need for people with different ideas to work together when he interned in the public relations department of Southbank Partners, a Newport-based economic development entity.

        He said he has witnessed how effective cooperation can be in the Kentucky General Assembly, despite its notoriety for bipartisan strife.

        “It's a crazy process,” he said. “It looks like it's out of control, but in the end it works.”

        Mr. Wice said that when the session adjourns in May, the state will have a balanced budget, new district lines and a handful of bills passed.

        While Mr. Wice said his parents, Russ and Toni, pay attention to politics and government, he attributes his passion to his late grandmother, Melba Abbott.

        Ms. Abbott was active in the city council and school board in Bloomdale, Ohio, and voted even when she was in a nursing home.

        Despite long drives to and from Frankfort and tiring days at the Capitol, Mr. Wice's interest and enthusiasm for the Democratic process continue to grow.


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