Tucker Davis is a DSU senior majoring in English for Education who received a surprising opportunity at the beginning of 2023. Instead of jumping into student teaching, Davis postponed it because he was offered a chance to work with South Dakota senators in Pierre for the length of the legislative session, from January through the second week of March. He came away with a positive impression of the experience. “You get lots of free food, tons of references, you get to meet and talk with the guys who make the rules in our state, pick their brains,” he shared, calling the internship “a pretty good gig.” Although the internship has its challenges, Davis would likely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn from some very smart and talented individuals.
The internship opportunity is something that not many DSU students are aware of. Although most of the other interns were majoring in fields related to politics, the internship is also open to people like Tucker who do not have political science majors nor plans to go into politics. Davis did not seek out the chance to intern. “It fell into my lap because Dr. Blessinger knows Casey Crabtree, the senator of Madison and the South Dakota Republican Majority Leader.” Crabtree was looking for an intern to replace an initial candidate who had to step back from the opportunity. “I guess Blessinger had taken a shine to me from my time in British Literature because he dropped my name and asked me if I’d be interested,” Davis said.
I had the opportunity to interview Davis over email and find out a little bit more about what he learned in Pierre. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What did your position entail? It’s a cross between a secretary and like an aide. The only certain duty every intern has is that they have to manage the teams calls for each committee meeting your senator chairs. Beyond that, your mileage carries depending on who you get assigned. If you get someone ambitious, important, and/or influential you’ll be busy writing things for them (newsletters, summaries of the week’s events, recording press conference details, etc.), coordinating with interns/people in the house of representatives, doing minor research that they can’t/don’t want to bother LRC staff with, bringing them status reports on certain bills they’re interested in, keeping track of their schedule.
What did you do for housing while you were in Pierre? Is housing provided or do you pay for your own? Do you choose where to live or do all the interns live in the same area? As for housing, they, that is the legislature, work with people in the area to get put on a curated list of potential homes for interns. you get to chose your own place, you are the one who has to reach out to the renter and hash out a price. They don’t provide the places for you, you have to pay rent. Alternatively, you can try your luck at paying daily fees at a hotel in town.
What was your most interesting experience throughout the internship? Most rewarding? Most challenging? For me, I got assigned 3 senators. 2 were very efficient and unambitious, so they almost never had work for me except to get me off their back. So for a number of days I would have nothing to do except sit at my desk or talk to other interns. That was probably the most challenging thing, just finding things to do for people. Most rewarding was helping the third. I helped him write up the whitepapers for one of his bills (it’s basically a one-page document that tells any senator or lobbyist all they need to know about what your bill wants to do). I apparently did a great job on it, enough so that my senator was singing my praises for a week afterward.
Which senators did you get to work with? I worked with Joshua Klumb, district 20; Kyle Shoenfish, district 19; and David Johnson, the one who was pleased with my write-up, district 33.
When asked if the experience changed his point of view on anything, Davis answered very honestly. “I didn’t really have the best opinion of the American government prior to this job…I thought everyone was incompetent, corrupt, and limp-wristed, at both the state and federal levels, across the board.” The semester he spent in Pierre changed that outlook drastically. “Having seen with my own eyes how things work in our state, I can say that I acquired a great deal of respect for our senators.” Besides having thirty-six influential names he can put on his resume, Davis acquired a new perspective.
In a time when people’s faith in politicians and their ability to accomplish things for the common good is shaky at best, it is hopeful to see someone close to home find a lot of good in South Dakota’s senators. “I really do think that we have earnest people working for us. Even if on occasion they may be misguided, they still want to do what they think is best for the state,” Davis stated. Now that this opportunity has been made known to DSU students and Davis has paved the way, hopefully more will try the internship and see for themselves what lawmakers are doing for the state.