Students clerking at Iowa Capitol get up-close look at politics


by Zoe Seiler, Special to The Simpsonian

DES MOINES, Iowa — Politics can be an overwhelming field to study, with many issues to discuss. Some may find it boring, while others love politics and being in a political environment. Two Simpson students are fostering their political interests by clerking at the Iowa Capitol.

Sophomore Casey Nickel’s interest in politics flourished in high school.

“I became interested in politics after doing congressional debate in high school,” Nickel said. “During the summer between my junior and senior year, I attended the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State and from there was chosen to be one of two female delegates from Iowa to attend Girls Nation in Washington D.C. These programs helped solidify my interest in politics.”

Nickel began working at the Iowa Capitol in spring 2016. She graduated a semester early from Ankeny Centennial High School to become a page in the Iowa Senate.

Freshman Grant Zajicek became interested in politics during the 2016 Republican primary and being a first-time voter.

 “I realized since I would get to vote, I would need to be informed on the candidates,” Zajicek said. “Then I realized that the country was headed in the completely wrong direction, and I wanted to help change that, so I got involved and it just snowballed from there.”

Zajicek is currently a clerk for Rep. Dave Maxwell in the Iowa House of Representatives. He manages Rep. Maxwell’s emails and schedule and attends committee meetings.

He replies to constituent emails and organizes important information for Rep. Maxwell. Zajicek creates a calendar of event dates and prepares the Rep. Maxwell’s schedule each day. Rep. Maxwell is the vice chair of the Transportation Committee, so Zajicek calls roll and records votes on bills.

Nickel is clerking for Sen. Amy Sinclair for the second year. Her responsibilities at the Iowa Senate change from day to day depending on the bills being debated. Nickel works closely with Sen. Sinclair during the legislative session.

“Because Sen. Sinclair is the chair of the Education Committee, it is my responsibility to get the committee notice published, publish the committee agenda, keep track of any education bills, take attendance and minutes at every education committee meeting, and create a journal and committee report for education committee business. Whenever the committee votes on a bill, I am responsible for taking note of each senator’s vote,” Nickel said.

Nickel is also responsible for Sen. Sinclair’s schedule and maintaining her email to make sure constituents get a prompt response. She organizes files and bills to maintain a binder for each committee Sen. Sinclair sits on.

Committee meetings can make for a long day at the Capitol, but Nickel and Zajicek enjoy their work.

“I love working at the Capitol,” Nickel said. “The speed of the day, how every day is different, the people, and getting to work and see firsthand how laws are passed and what the actual process of the bill moving through the legislature looks like.”

I love working at the Capitol because I get to work with so many people that I am able to make connections with,” Zajicek said. “Also working there is awesome because the Capitol is such a nice looking historical building, and I get to see it every day.”

Clerks work closely with their senator and experience the lawmaking process first-hand. Clerking gives students an opportunity to learn from politicians and see what their future may have in store. Students are also able to make many connections with senators and representatives.  

“Sen. Sinclair includes me in many meetings and introduces me to multiple influential people in the state. It helped me become more informed and prepared for my future,” Nickel said.

Nickel has her eyes set on working in politics, preferably in a senate as the Senate Republican legislative analyst for education.

“Working [at the Iowa Capitol] for the past two years has showed me how much I really want this,” Nickel said. “I was able to work first-hand in a legislature and see exactly what my future would look like if I continued on this path. I have made so many connections that have helped me narrow down exactly what I want to do with my degree. When I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to major in politics.”