The Life of a Legislative Aide: A Q&A

Stefanie Kitchen is the legislative aide for
Del. Peter Farrell (R-56th)

If you’ve ever tried to visit or contact your legislator, odds are you’ve interacted with their legislative aide. Some folks find this frustrating, especially when there’s an important issue they want to discuss with their legislator, but meeting or speaking with an aide can be just as effective. 
We sat down with Stefanie Kitchen, legislative aide to Delegate Peter Farrell (R-56th) and former Virginia Farm Bureau Governmental Relations intern, to discuss her life as a aide and how she works with constituents to make sure their messages reach their legislator. 

What exactly does a legislative aide do?
A legislative aide does anything and everything their delegate or senator needs to be an effective legislator.  Aides provide support in a variety of ways, including meeting with lobbyists and constituents, tracking legislation, organizing constituent outreach and response, writing press releases, and coordinating social media.
How much interaction do you have with the constituents?
I have a great deal of interaction with constituents. Constituents frequently contact the office, both during Session and the interim, to voice their opinions on legislation or request assistance with a state agency.  Aides serve as the first line of defense for legislators, so I usually speak to every constituent before passing them on to the delegate.   

What are the most effective ways for constituents to communicate with their legislator about issues that are important to them?
A face-to-face meeting is the most effective way for constituents to communicate with their legislator. A lot of people think legislators only meet with lobbyists, but that is definitely not the case. Most legislators enjoy seeing friendly faces from the district, and talking in-person conveys commitment to an issue. Conversely, the least effective way to communicate is a form letter. Not taking time to develop your own thoughts really detracts from the importance of an issue.
How are legislative aides influential to their legislators?
You’d have to ask the legislator! Each office is different, but I am lucky enough to work for a delegate who listens and trusts my discretion when it comes to the vetting process. I decide who meets with the delegate and who receives a letter or a phone call.   
What happens after you meet with some constituents Peter was unable to meet with? How do you get make sure he gets their information?
I record every constituent’s legislative comments in an electronic database after I talk to them. When Delegate Farrell is in committee or on the floor of the House of Delegates, he can pull up any given bill and see exactly who supports and opposes the legislation and why.
What are the best ways to befriend the aide and why is that beneficial?
The best way to befriend an aide is the simplest way: be polite. Aides meet with numerous people every day and the ones that stand out are the ones who are particularly friendly and the ones who are particularly rude. Don’t be part of the second group! Most aides genuinely want to help, and you never know when you are going to need one to go the extra mile for you.  

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