HHS grad goes to work in the U.S. Capitol
Kristen Higdon, Contributimg writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Every weeknight, Luling native Matthew Jewell begins his walk home from work.
As he leaves, Jewell takes a quick glance back at his office building, but what he sees is not your average office complex.
Instead, it is the U.S. Capitol.
Jewell moved to Washington, D.C., in December of 2014 when he was hired as senior staff assistant for House Majority Whip, Congressman Steve Scalise, who represents Louisiana’s first district.
As a student at Hahnville High School, Jewell was involved in band, talented drama, golf and baseball, but he never had an interest in government and politics until the 2008 presidential election.
“I learned a bit in my high school civics class, but when I watched and read the coverage of the 2008 election, I kept digging more into it and found out that I actually loved it,” Jewell said.
As a college student, this prompted him to become involved in student government. Jewell was senator for the college of business at Nicholls State University where he majored in business administration with a minor in political science.
“Since then, I always try and encourage people I know to stay informed. I know that most people are turned off by the fighting back and forth, but I just fell in love with what it is all about,” Jewell said.
As his college years went on, he quickly rose through the ranks and was eventually elected president of the university’s student government. Jewell also had the opportunity to serve as a student member on Louisiana’s Board of Regents where he served on various committees and reviewed and approved capital outlay requests from numerous state institutions.
In addition to his student government posts, Jewell was lucky enough to receive an internship in D.C. working for Congressman Scalise in the summer of 2011.
According to Jewell, his internship experience was an eye opening one. He was able to work in legislation while having a front row seat to witness and learn the governing process.
“I remember thinking that it was so different than what I would see on TV,” Jewell recalled.
In addition to working as an executive assistant to Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph, Jewell is also a graduate of Leadership Lafourche, which is a leadership immersion program designed to train cross-sections of Lafourche residents and workers for productive roles in the community.
Once he graduated college, he heard of an opening in Scalise’s Houma office for a bayou field representative. Given his accomplishments and past experience working with the congressman, Jewell was more than capable of the job. In this position, he was tasked with coordinating outreach events for Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.
After all of his experiences in leadership and governmental affairs, it was no surprise that Jewell was qualified for the job.
“When I interned in D.C. in 2011, I never thought I would end up back there,” Jewell added. “I knew I wanted something in politics but I didn’t know what.”
His day-to-day work is always different, but everyday tasks include taking calls from constituents, assisting with special events at the Capitol, managing the internship program and coordinating daily office operations.
“The pace is very fast and fluid,” Jewell said. “On an average week I probably work 50 to 60 hours, depending if we are in session or when a vote is going to fall.”
Even though the 26 year old has been working in the nation’s capital for about six months, he still considers himself a tourist. As a self-proclaimed American history buff, Jewell enjoys going to the city’s museums and monuments as well as seeing what else the area has to offer.
He also notes that he is still getting use to the nuances of the city.
“It is very different than Luling,” he joked. “Specifically, the parking and cost of living took some getting use to. They say your first year in D.C is the hardest year because you have to figure out the easiest means to get to and from different areas within the city.”
As for the young professional’s ultimate goal, he wants to humbly keep doing what he is doing. He has no immediate ambitions to run for office but said he does not rule it out for the future.
However, Jewell does see himself back in Louisiana one day. He and his wife would love to raise their children in his home state, and he said they will move back when the time is right.
“While I like the hustle and bustle of the hill, I like the laid back nature of Louisiana,” Jewell continued. “Plus there is no where to park a boat here, and I like to fish.”
He uses his connection to Louisiana and small town life as strength in D.C. as it gives him a link to the constituents he is helping to serve. “Since I am from a smaller region, I can bring that representation to Washington,” he said.
That link to the citizens back home is something that is frequently on his mind. Whenever Jewell walks in the Capitol each morning his first thought is what could we do to make the lives of those in the first district better. For him, this can include working on tax reform or helping with a simple request from a citizen.
As for what makes the long hours and countless meetings worth it?
Put simply, he loves politics.
“Ultimately, I think it comes from a desire to help people and provide them with the best opportunities possible,” Jewell said.
It is with that attitude he is able to leave work every night, look back up at an office building unlike any other, and know he is proud and fulfilled serving those in Louisiana.