Saying hello, on behalf of a senator

Every morning, Shavonne Bailey walks through downtown Dover, Del., and grabs a searing hot cup of coffee from the shop on the corner. She says hello to Rick, a retired veteran who sits there every morning,  content with his double espresso and a newspaper.

In her blazer and heels, she walks into the shimmering glass-paneled building at 500 Loockerman Street and arrives at her final destination: the district office of Democratic Sen. Christopher Coons, where she works as a staff assistant.

After graduating from college, Bailey pursued government-level experience to add to her résumé. “I’ve always wanted to go to law school, and nowadays, the admissions offices are looking for experience. So I applied to work for Sen. Coons,” she said.

Politicians are held to a set of high expectations once they are elected into office — the highest of which is to maintain and improve the general welfare of their state, said Bailey. However, an important aspect of their term in office often is overlooked: constituent outreach.

“It is absolutely essential to maintain an active relationship with the constituency of your state, as a politician,” said Bailey. “I make it a point to say hello to the people I see regularly. It reflects well on the senator.”

Her morning routine begins with skimming the local newspapers. “We write letters on behalf of the senator to those who deserve it the most,” she said. Among the recipients of these congratulatory letters are students who have won prestigious awards, successful business owners and active community members.

“We also send condolence letters to families who have lost loved ones — especially military families,” said Bailey. “It is really important for them to know that we value their service immensely.”

When candidates campaign for office, their main focus should be the desires of their state’s constituency. “Policy making and legislative initiatives are made after the senators are elected. Their constituency should always come first. That’s something that Senator Coons emphasizes heavily,” she said.

Coons has three different offices: in Washington, D.C., and in Wilmington and Dover, Del. The two district offices are intended to maintain a local presence. The Dover office is specifically designed to address local developments and constituent opinion.

Bailey said that her job is among the most important on Coons’ staff.

“We are the ones who get calls from the angry veteran who hasn’t been compensated and the disabled woman who ran into Social Security issues,” said Bailey. “But, we are also the ones that fix those problems, and we are the ones who give a voice to the otherwise voiceless in the national political arena,” she said.

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