U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, encouraged students to pursue a career in government Wednesday.
Participating briefly in Fort Dodge Senior High’s Career Day, Grassley spoke with two groups about governance.
Grassley joined David Fierke, Fort Dodge city manager; Chad Schaeffer, city engineer; and Carissa Miller, associate city planner; for the sessions.
“Government is not just people like us, elected to office,” he said. “You can have federal government service, as an employee. You can run for office, like I have done. And you can do that at the local, state or federal level.”
Grassley spoke about how he became interested in politics.
“The small farm family I was brought up in, they were not active in politics,” he said. “They were good citizens and they were good voters. But my mom and dad were always talking history or government, and politics generally. I grew up in that environment, and when I was your age and a lot younger. I read all I could about government and became interested in it, and went to (University of Northern Iowa) and majored in political science to be a teacher.”
Before getting a teaching job, Grassley ran for the state Legislature.
“I lost the first election, but came close enough that it encouraged me to try two years later,” he said. “All this time, I didn’t ever have any idea of being a U.S. senator. I wanted to be a state legislator.”
Grassley succeeded in his second attempt and was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1958. In 1974, Grassley was elected to the first of three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. where he served before deciding to run for the U.S. Senate in 1980. He was elected that year and has been in office for 32 years.
At first, serving his state and country was not easy, he told the students.
“I found myself in my 20s and 30s, being married and having children,” he said. “When you served in the Legislature, that meant only 100 days every other year … and getting $30 a day and later on $40 a day. And $3,000 or $4,000 every other year isn’t the way you support a family.”
When not serving, Grassley said he provided for his family other ways.
“I went to Waterloo Register Co., which was in Cedar Falls,” he said. “We made furnace registers. And so I spent 10 years when the Legislature wasn’t in session putting screw holes in furnace registers. For a guy with a master’s degree, why would you do that? I suppose because I love politics.”
Grassley explained how the students, after high school, could learn about government through experience.
“I have seven college interns in the fall, seven in the spring, and then the summer I have so many applicants I have two groups of seven each. So over a course of 12 months, let’s say about 28 to 32 people get the opportunity to come to Washington (D.C.),” he said. “You work right alongside the paid people on the staff. And you get a chance to interact with me, if you want to.”
Grassley, who is 80, said he plans to run for re-election in 2016.