Sons & Daughters - First-hand look at mom’s duties

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State Representative Patti Ruff and her son, Liam, worked side-by-side this legislative session. Liam served as his mother’s clerk while also attending college.

By Kim Hurley

Register Freelance Writer


Intense negotiation skills!  Yes, intense negotiation skills were what Liam Ruff used to persuade his own mom, Patti Ruff, to allow him to become her legislative clerk for the 2016 term. A 2015 graduate from MFL Mar-Mac in McGregor, Liam spent a day with Patti last spring as part of his high school government class. Observing the operations of state government ignited a desire to work at the capitol building. Upon asking if he could clerk for her, Patti, Representative of District 56 in the Iowa House, agreed as long as Liam went on to attend DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College). “I agreed and here we are almost half way through the 2016 session and everything is going smoothly,” Liam states exuberantly.

From Patti Ruff to George Carlin. Liam believes his lifelong interest in politics comes from being a huge history buff, “and politics and history march side by side.” Actually, his mom and George Carlin were the two people who really sparked a drive in Liam to learn more about, and pay attention to, the spectrum of our government. Being the son of a representative gives one the chance to become completely armed with knowledge on how the governmental system works. “My mom is my inspiration to get educated and to educate others not just in politics, but in everything,” he shares, “Like my mom, I defend education very strongly. She has taught me to be persistent while being aggressive with an issue.” 

The second person who influenced Liam’s interest in the governmental and political system was the late comedian, George Carlin.  “He was able to separate himself from every party, group and rhetoric,” Liam explains, “He was like a third-person view of it all for me.  After watching all of his shows and reading his books, I look at things from that third-person view and am aware of things I wasn’t before.”  An example of this is Liam’s ability to pick out flaws in a policy, bill, or anything for that matter. “I don’t mean flaws as in grammatical mistakes,” he clarifies, “I mean flaws as in they left a certain group of people out or they are missing something.”

From delivering breakfast to organizing mail, bills, and calendars—Liam’s typical day as a legislative clerk begins with getting his Representative mother breakfast, after which he collects the postal mail and puts any new events onto the calendar. He then opens up emails, organizes them, and prioritizes them.  When the schedule for the following week arrives on Thursday, Liam fills out Patti’s calendar for the next week so she is ready to go. Once the agenda arrives for the education committee, Liam adds it onto the legislative website. Besides tabbing bills that come to Patti’s desk, sorting and mailing out postcards are other duties of Liam’s.

From politics to photography. Surprisingly enough, Liam’s career goal is to become a photojournalist  for either National Geographic or Vice News. With a love for art and honing photography as his artistic talent, Liam strongly believes that a picture tells a thousand words and sometimes they tell more than that. “Unlike most people in photography, I don’t want to do weddings or even senior pictures,” he distinguishes, “I’m after the photographs that touch people and make them feel uncomfortable in a way that they realize that, whatever the subject of the photo is, needs to change.” 

From deciphering to networking. Liam plans to use the knowledge gained from his legislative clerkship to understand certain things during newscasts if it isn’t muffled by rhetoric. However, he feels that learning how to communicate on a more personable level and networking with people from across the whole spectrum are the two most important skills he has gained and will be able to use in any field.  Patti agrees, “The exposure to everything from reporters, pages, clerks, legislators, government officials, and lobbyists creates not only a great working network but also a wealth of advice that can be shared with Liam.” 






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