To say this week has been overwhelming would be an understatement.
After being appointed on June 21 to complete the term of the late Rep. Patsy Terrell, I spend the next few days fielding calls and talking with people on the phone about what to do next. On Monday, I traveled to Topeka and was sworn in just before Sine Die, the last day of the session for the Kansas Legislature.
I am now, officially, Rep. Jason Probst, D-Hutchinson, representing the 102nd District.
It still feels a little surreal. I’ve been swamped with paperwork, and have spent a great deal of time on the phone, or meeting with people, trying to understand the ins-and-outs of this role, as well as some of the basic things we all have to do in a new job – like fill out a mountain of paperwork for the HR department.
It turns out members of the Kansas legislature don’t really run the place; the people that work in Legislative Administrative Services run things.
After being sworn in, I visited legislative services, where a whirlwind of activity and forms awaited me. So much, in fact, that I returned to Topeka on Thursday to finish things up. They are the most helpful people. I left convinced that without them, every new lawmaker would spend his or her days wandering around the state Capitol without a clue of where to go or what to do. Well, maybe not every new lawmaker, but me for sure.
They walked me through everything I needed to know. Patiently answered all my questions. Gave me a tour of the building, and helped me understand some of the choices I was about to make. They also offered me a piece of chocolate cake and/or zucchini blueberry bread.
Mostly, though, they made me feel really comfortable. We joked around. When it came time for me to have a photo taken for my ID badge, one of the employees walked me over to the Capitol police took the time to straighten my collar to make sure I looked suitable for a photograph.
I went to lunch with one of the ladies (I’m not using their names because I’m not sure they want me to, and I neglected to ask). She told me interesting stories about Topeka, and even some history about well known national banks. We talked about the legislature, and some of the things that trip up new lawmakers. Her answers were candid and without any sense of judgement – just the observations of someone who has seen a thing or two during her time in the statehouse.
I really felt like they worked to put me at ease, which was nice because I was anything but at ease. This transition has happened very fast. A lot of information is being crammed into a narrow window, and I feel like I have to get a lot of things put in place very quickly. But the people up in LAS, their kindness and helpfulness went a long ways to making a potentially overwhelming situation not just manageable, but enjoyable.
Other people have been likewise helpful – the people down in IT got me set up with a computer and helped me get email on my phone. Rep. Jim Ward has helped explain some things I need to know, as well as the people who work in his office. They’ve all been very helpful and patient in humoring a new guy who probably asks too many questions.
Here at home, I’ve been touched by the number of people who have reached out to support me, help me, and express their faith in my ability to do this work on their behalf. It’s an amazingly humbling thing, when you think about it, to be entrusted with the role of speaking and working on behalf of a group of people. And even though all of them will likely have different ideas and thoughts about what government ought to do, there are elements that connect them, that run through a community, or in this case, a political district. I think if we can find that, find those elements of common ground in our community, we can pull together to do some really good work.
So anyone who has reached out to me in whatever form, know that it is meaningful to me – and helps me see how many people really care about the people in this district and want to be involved in making it better. I appreciate your kindness, and I hope you know that. And I’m eager to work for you.
Before I wrap this up, I have to talk about the Capitol building itself. It’s an impressive display of history and architecture, and I get sort of awe-struck when I walk into it.
I know that if the people of the 102nd continue to ask me to serve them, there might come a time when this building doesn’t hold for me the power that it does today. That someday, it will seem like an office building where I work. I really hope that doesn’t happen, though, because it’s more than an office building. It’s this enclosure of history, really, that reaches all the way back to Kansas’ beginnings, and it’s where so many advances, and, yes, setbacks, have their genesis. It’s where people are asked to consider their fellow Kansans, their neighbors, and their neighbor’s children and grandchildren, and do work on their behalf so that they and the state might move forward. I am humbled to be a part of it, for however long that might be, and I hope that I forever look at this building and see the past, present, and future of this state all at once.