Special Report: A Day in the Life with Local Lawmakers

By: Leah Kraus Email
By: Leah Kraus Email

It's 6:45 a.m. on a Tuesday, and like many parents, Representative Mandy Wright is getting her kids ready for school. They eat a quick breakfast together, before Wright helps them into their snow gear, gives them a kiss on the cheek, and sends them on their way to school.

However, Wright's life differs at this point from other parents. She heads to her office at the Capitol building in Madison where she'll stay until Thursday.

Around the same time, Senator Jerry Petrowski arrives to start his day in 123 South at the Capitol. Unlike Wright, he's spent nearly 15 years in politics -- however, "Senator life" is new to him. The Marathon resident has held this office since July, but has served in the Assembly since 1998.

Both Wright and Petrowski spend their days in Madison as one would probably imagine -- holding meetings, doing paper work, meeting with constituents -- but there's the lesser known things too.

Petrowski is a fan of the Righteous Brothers, and does not hesitate to relax by playing some tunes in his office while getting ready for a meeting on transportation with Assembly members Terry Moulton and Tom Larson. He has the luxury of working in Governor Thompson's old office and mentions the ornate woodwork when I ask him about it.

Wright, on the other-hand, has barely had time to furnish her office in 10 West since moving in on January 7th. The former teacher has been busy authoring her first bill -- the angel and early investment tax refund. It encourages outside investors to bring money to the state as venture capital -- specifically in supporting small businesses and ideally leading to more jobs.

"I'm really excited because a third of the Assembly is freshman like me," says Wright. "It's true, I just think this is the coolest job. It has so much potential to help engage people and help them understand the decision making process and make sure were making good decisions for everyone."

Wright has an easy-going attitude and isn't embarrassed to tell me about some of the challenges she's faced in Madison. There was the time she had trouble parking her car -- leading to many laps being driven around the Capitol while amused on-lookers waved. And the time she tried changing in her office but forgot she hadn't shut the blinds. But those are rookie mistakes, and Wright is quickly becoming a pro. She spends the morning at her very first committee meeting on consumer protections and then meets with students from Northcentral Technical College both during an exhibition in the rotunda and in a private meeting in her office. around noon she's off to a quick lunch with a friend.

Around the corner in the building Senator Petrowski is finishing up on of many meetings he holds on a daily basis. This summer will complete his first year as Senator. His staff is a combination of two people that worked for him in the Assembly and two more that he hired when he made the switch. He sums up what he looks for in potential candidates by saying "you want someone who is driven to do the best job they can."

Both Wright and Petrowski say its integral to work together at the Capitol; they say it's how progress is made.

"We've worked in Veterans issues for years," says Petrowski. "I've always been on that committee and transportation I've chaired for many of years. We're going to do some other things too but trans and veterans and military affairs will take up a lot of our time."

Petrowski typically spends Tuesday and Wednesday nights staying with his son in Madison, before heading back to Marathon. One of the biggest changes for him is the size of the area he covers. He says finding enough hours to cover everything is his biggest challenge.

"When I was in the Assembly I liked to get around to individual town meetings," he says. "I used to have 23 towns, 7 villages, and one city -- now I have about 128."

It's safe to say that this year will be a busy one for both. But, they enjoy that aspect of their lives.

"The focus should be on what we can do together and how we move forward together," says Petrowski.

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