That time Mark Mallory’s Chief of Staff Yelled at me for 30 minutes in an Internship Interview: A retrospective
All I wanted was some experience…
In times like ours, its easy to forget the norms of civility as we watch our politicans lose their minds over petty, divisive, manufactured crises. However, its important to examine our experiences with public officials and understand how their childish behavior harms their constituents and the discourse of America more broadly.
When I was a freshmen in college, I was very interested in gaining important experience throughout my post-secondary education. I applied for dozens of internships, and I received several interviews. These were my first interviews I had as a young professional, and so I was very nervous. One of the internships that I applied for was a press internship with Mayor Mark Mallory’s office in 2012, near the end of his term as mayor of Cincinnati. At the time I was very well informed on the politics of Cincinnati, and I did my best to prepare for the interview by making sure I was up to date on the latest issues.
The interview was a Skype call, so I pulled on my collared shirt and tie and kept the gym shorts, since they wouldn’t see those on camera. When the call came through, I was surprised to be greeted by not one, but two men. The first man introduced himself as the hiring coordinator and the second man introduced himself as the chief of staff for Mayor Mark Mallory. I was unprepared for the chief of staff to be there, but none-the-less I felt confident that I could complete the interview without any issues, or at least without an important public official throwing a fit over my personal political beliefs. I was wrong.
One of the first questions in the interview was my opinion on whether or not Cincinnati should complete its street car initiative. Looking back, I should have known this was a trap and that my honest opinion was irrelevant. Foolish 18 year old me thought it was my time to shine and tell them my actual opinion. At this point there were multiple proposals on the ballot to cancel the street car project, due to its massive bloated budget. So I responded by explaining my concerns that the street car was costing far more than it was worth, and that perhaps the city should reconsider its commitment to the relatively minor but extremely expensive public transit option.
To give you some background, the street car, now called the Cincinnati Bell Connector, was a 3.6 mile loop that now runs through downtown Cincinnati. At the time, the project had already cost the city millions of dollars and it appeared that it would not be done anytime soon. In fact, the street car wasn’t completed until nearly 4 years later in 2016. Regardless, my opinion was not an uncommon one at the time. I did not realize the deeply personal nature of this project to the chief of staff, until he started scolding and yelling at me during the interview.
He first insulted my intelligence for 10 minutes straight without letting me get a word in edge wise, and then when the other gentleman tried to move on to other questions about my qualifications, the chief of staff repeatedly interrupted those questions to tell me more fun facts about how the street car was going to bring in investment etc.
I don’t know if I was right about the street car, but I do know that it’s not appropriate to yell at an 18 year old looking to get some experience in politics. If you actually wanted me to learn, you should have hired me and shown me how great the street car could have been. Instead I received an extended lecture about how wrong I was during an interview, a lecture meant to humiliate me.
As I look back on this experience, I recall how I felt. I was upset, confused, and most of all disappointed in the city I once called home. If we can’t trust our public officials to be civil, then what can we trust them with? Basic human decency is not something we should have to demand from politicians and those who work for them.
Now as a nation we are engaged in one of the most prolonged campaigns of bigotry and incivility that we have witnessed in my life time at a national level. A chief of staff screaming at a potential intern for 30 minutes is childsplay in comparison to what the President of the United States, Donald Trump, spews out of his mouth daily. Its important that in the face of these things, we realize that this should not be the norm. Incivility destroys the sacred trust that communication should hold.