Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to work in two of the three branches of government, and have substantial interaction with the third one. I spent several years working in the Michigan House and Senate before eventually joining Governor John Engler’s team in the Executive Office. And as a lobbyist I have the privilege of representing the Michigan Judges Association, the state’s Circuit and Court of Appeals Judges.
From the outside, it’s easy to put all of government into one basket, especially the legislature and governor as they create policy. However, there are significant differences between the two, some obvious, others not so much. While everyone who has had the opportunity to work in government takes away their own insights and memories, today I’ll share what I consider three unique characteristics of the executive branch.
First, the rhythm of the executive branch operations is more static or consistent, albeit at a very hectic level! The legislature has several recesses throughout the year enabling legislators to spend more time in their districts. As a legislative staffer, our calendars would reflect a less frenzied pace when the members were out of town for a few weeks. When 148 legislators leave town, you can feel the difference in the vibe of downtown.
The executive branch can be divided into two natural areas, the governor’s office and his or her team immediately surrounding them and the departments.
Second, the scope and depth of the executive branch operations is more significant due to the tens of thousands of employees and its mission. While the legislature design’s the state policy, it is up to the governor’s team and relevant departments to implement, then manage, every detail for as long as the policy or program is in place. It wasn’t until I moved into the governor’s office that I truly appreciated the vast nature and scope of state government. It was always a fun conversation to have with friends, who made a similar transition with subsequent governors, regarding their own new-found appreciation for these differences.
Lastly, you know the old saying, “safety in numbers”? It doesn’t apply to being governor. While a legislator’s action can be different than that of the legislature, the governor is the one and only. Consequently, the accountability of what happens in state government if greater on the governor than any one legislator. There is an upside too, which is the power of the pulpit. Legislators, because they are one of many, do not receive the same attention from the media.
But, if you have the opportunity to serve in any branch of state government, it’s service I highly recommend taking. I greatly appreciate the opportunities given me by the staff directors, legislators and Governor Engler. Just don’t expect the real world of governing to look like the civics lessons your high school teacher presented!
Michigan Legislative Consultants is a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, Michigan. Our team of lobbyists and procurement specialists provide a wide range of services for some of the most respected companies in America. For more on MLC, visit www.mlcmi.com or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.