On Thursday, Feb. 16, Career Center Assistant Director Ty Collins hosted a Careers in Local and State Government seminar in Briggs Hall Room 420. For upcoming government majors and other interested students, the event was a chance to hear from and meet influential alumni and employees of Lawrence who have served in government.
Former Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton ‘87, Appleton Mayor Jake Woodford ‘13 and Oshkosh City Council Member as well as mayoral candidate Aaron Wojciechowski discussed their relationship to Lawrence, how they began their careers in government and what their advice was to upcoming students hoping to enter careers in government.
Lawton majored in Spanish at Lawrence and remarked that her time at Lawrence learning reading, writing and critical thinking was essential for her first campaign. Lawton discussed the space for innovation in her job as Lieutenant Governor and stressed the importance of leadership and initiative in her position.
“It’s important for you to be a quick study and to know how to recognize expertise when you see it and take counsel when you know that it’s good,” Lawton said.
Woodford, an Appleton resident since birth, said that he used Lawrence as a chance to experiment with life. Woodford was LUCC President in the 2012-2013 academic year, and after graduating, he served as assistant to former Lawrence President Mark Burstein. He described his time at Lawrence as a crash course in organization and general management, which Woodford feels helps him carry out the duties of being mayor.
Wojcechowski is both a member of the Oshkosh City Council and the Assistant Director of Student Activities at Lawrence. He said that the 2020 election results inspired him to run at the age of 19, becoming the youngest member by almost 20 years in his first council term, and discussed his current running as a candidate for mayor in Oshkosh.
After initial questioning provided by Collins, students were allowed to ask remaining questions and advice from the guests. Wojciechowski was asked what advice he would give to students considering getting involved.
“Run,” Wojciechowski responded. “I know there are a lot of things that people are thinking about that maybe prevent them, or make them hesitate to run for office, but just do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any experience, or even the network, or the people; if you have the passion, the drive and you believe in your values and mission, that’s what you need. If you like it, you’ll learn on the job and the rest will come later, but it really is about being a good person and just wanting to make a positive difference.”
Working in government presents great opportunities to soon-to-be-graduates of institutions like Lawrence, Woodford said, adding that local government is an especially important and often overlooked career path to consider. Additionally, while students may not be thinking about long-term career paths or the importance of benefits like health insurance and retirement, local governments, including the City of Appleton, have these benefits, said Woodford.