Abigail Whisler

Public Policy Fellowship at the Cuyahoga County Executive Office, Cleveland Ohio

During the summer of 2012, I was able to participate in the Cuyahoga County Executive Office Public Policy Fellowship, thanks to the support of the Wellman Hill Internship Grant. I spent 10 weeks of the summer working out of the county administration building in downtown Cleveland with nine other undergrad, graduate, and Ph.D. students. On my first day of work, I was assigned to the Communications Department, where I worked for the rest of the summer. I also had the opportunity to meet with the County Executive, Ed FitzGerald, to talk about working for the communications department and what he felt our most important goals were.

For the first week of the program, I mostly shadowed my supervisors in the Office of Communications. I attended events and meetings and watched the day-to-day operations of the office. After the first week, I was given projects, which became more substantive as the summer continued. Everyday projects included writing and editing press releases and media advisories, contacting all the county municipalities to keep track of local events and local newsletters, attending meetings with the press, and doing a mail merge with follow-up on RSVPs. Longer-term projects included selecting and editing content for the County Annual Report, building content for and launching twelve principles pages on the Western Reserve Plan website, and constructing a social media policy to lay out guidelines and strategy to improve county use of social media.

Over the course of the program, I was also given some administrative responsibilities for the fellowship program. These included scheduling meetings, helping to coordinate a day of volunteering, and doing follow-up on group projects. At the end of every week, we would have a brief meeting to discuss the projects that each of the fellows were working on, discuss new projects that needed volunteers, and go over important events and deadlines. I also helped coordinate photos with each fellow and the Executive, as well as compiling all of the fellows’ biographies, which were posted on the Cuyahoga County Website.

Throughout the summer, the other fellows and I also got to tour various buildings/administrations in the county, including the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office, the County Archives, and the County Jail. As one of my supervisors works as the public information officer for the County Sheriff’s Office, I had the unique experience of being able to tour many areas of the sheriff’s office. I was also able to attend interesting events, including a topping off event at the Medical Mart, several public works ribbon cuttings, and press conferences for various issues.

Because the Office of Communications works with most, if not all, departments, my experiences with them were very broad. I learned a great deal about how the county operates, and what the primary responsibilities of each department are. I was able to attend many events and work on a variety of projects. Overall, I found my summer experience to be very educational and rewarding. I am very grateful to Liz Hill and the members of the selection committee for making all of this possible.