My name is Zachary L. Penney, and I am representing Oregon Sea Grant as a 2014 Knauss Marine Policy Legislative Fellow in Washington, DC. I am a recent graduate of the University of Idaho (December 2013), where I completed my Ph.D. in Natural Resources with a primary emphasis in fisheries biology and management. Although I label myself as an Idahoan, I am also Nimiipuu (Nez Perce Tribe), who historically occupied areas in central Idaho, western Montana, southeastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon. So despite the boundary between Idaho and Oregon, I have undeniable ancestral ties to the state of Oregon.
After being selected as a Knauss finalist, I traveled to Silver Springs, MD during the first week of November 2013, also known as placement week. As a legislative fellow, I spent the majority of my time traveling into Washington, D.C. (via Metro) and running around our nation’s capital. Coming from rural Idaho, the Metro system was a completely new and, at times, a stressful experience for me. However, after a few days of trial and error, I quickly became a metro expert. Believe me when I say that using the metro is far less stressful than trying to drive downtown Washington D.C.
During the final few days of placement week I spent the majority of my time interviewing with the staff of senators and house representatives. In total, I interviewed with 17 different offices and committees, which at times felt quite a bit like speed-dating. Admittedly, I must confess that before my interviews I thought that I already knew what offices would fit my skill set best. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. After my interviews it quickly became apparent that there was more to selecting an office than which one best fit my background or degree. I found that finding an office that would provide a positive work environment in addition to professional development was also very important. In the end I selected to serve in the office of U.S. Representative Jared Huffman, who represents the 2nd district of California, which lies along Oregon’s southern border.
I officially begin my Knauss fellowship on February 3rd, 2014 and am currently looking for a place to rent in the Washington, D.C. area. Considering that 2014 is an election year, I expect that the political atmosphere will be charged, which should provide an interesting experience during my fellowship.