Good People for the Resistance is a twice-monthly interview with people who give me hope during these dark times. Today, meet Errin Douglas, Staff Assistant to Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. Full disclosure: I’ve known Errin’s family for years. With a fierce, big-hearted mother and a brainy, indefatigable big sister to serve as role models, it came as no surprise that Errin landed her Dream Job straight out of college.
What’s it like to work for a member of The Squad? What’s been Errin’s “pinch me I can’t believe I have this job” moment on Capitol Hill? Read the Good News …
Q: Your job title is Staff Assistant to Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. First, congratulations on landing such an incredible job. Now explain what it is you do.
Thank you. I manage the daily operations of the Congresswoman’s office. I run the internship program, take all incoming phone calls, listen to voicemails, manage all the people coming to the office, book rooms, make sure all of the ethics trainings take place, book tours for constituents. Today one of my new ideas just got approved, which I am very excited about – our office is going to be enrolled in the Library of Congress’s surplus book program, which means we’re going to get more books into the district.
Q: How’d you get the job?
I was an intern for City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley in 2013-2014. I needed an internship to graduate high school, and I knew that she was a sponsor of the Boston Caribbean Carnival, which is a big part of my family’s life, so I interviewed with her office. I got the internship, and wound up falling in love with Ayanna and politics. To see a black woman so authentic and so passionate in the community I’d lived in all my life made me see I could it do it, too. I realized the best way to make a difference in my community is through policy-making.
Q: Working for one of the most high-profile people in Congress – right out of college – is pretty impressive. What was your major?
I graduated from Salem State University in 2018 with a major in Business Entrepreneurship, and a minor in Public Policy/Public Administration and Economics. College 100% prepared me for what I’m doing now. Politicians are entrepreneurs. And economics helped me understand how adding a tax here or a tariff there can affect an entire community.
Q: How’s the job going so far?
It’s incredibly stressful, but I know it’s because we are making good trouble, and we are on the right side of history. I’m in charge of the phones and the voicemail and mail, and I can’t begin to tell you things I’ve been called, even worse things people say about Congresswoman Pressley, the number of threats, the harassment, it’s quadrupled in the last few weeks. Trump tweeting about The Squad makes our work so much harder. But for every hateful call we get, there are 3 loving calls. Bottom line is, I love my job, I love the person I work for, and I love doing work that helps the people of the United States and the Massachusetts 7th District.
Q: Have you had a “pinch me, I can’t believe this is my life” moment since you’ve been in D.C.?
Okay, the first one was when Stacey Abrams came in. I walked into the office in the morning and she was just sitting there, waiting for the Congresswoman to come in. We just chatted and hung out, then she said, “oh, do you want to take selfies?” I could not believe this was my job. The next time was the State of Union. Also, when I got my business cards and saw the U.S. seal on them. I thought, “Wow I am here.” Every day I walk into my office and think I am here for the 7th district of Massachusetts, the community that raised me. And I have a key to that door – I have a key that opens the doors to Congress!
Q: What’s the one piece of legislation that AP is working on that you are most passionate about?
She just introduced a Baby Bonds bill with Senator Cory Booker. It would work like this: At birth, every American child would be given an “American Opportunity Account” seeded with $1,000. Each year, children would receive up to an additional $2,000 deposit into their Account, depending on family income. The funds would sit in a federally insured account managed by the Treasury Department, achieving roughly 3 percent interest. Account holders would be able to access the money at age 18, to use for things like buying a home and higher education.
Q: What’s been an eye-opener or surprise to you about D.C. politics?
Well, I always knew this, because you see it a lot on TV shows, but actually seeing it first-hand has been different. People will step on your toes here to get ahead, in their personal careers or for their office. This does not happen in my office, but I am seeing it now with my friends in other offices. People who started the same time as me are getting fired or quitting because of the high stress levels. What makes me feel good is that I am very close to Congresswoman Pressley and Chief of Staff, so I can always go to them with any problem or issue.
Q: How many hours do you work in a typical day?
10 hours. My job doesn’t require me to be in the office very late unless I am trying to be helpful to other departments. Legislative directors and Chief of Staff are often at work until 1 or 2 in the morning, working 15-20 hour days.
Q: Who’s your hero?
My mamma. She struggled everyday with her own learning disabilities and self-esteem issues, and she moved forward. She sacrificed everything for my sister and me to get ahead. Now, she calls me twice a day to let me know I am loved and important.
Q: What do you wish you had time to do, that you just can’t seem to get to?
I wish I could spend more time with my family. They are such a big part of why I am in this work, they center me. Sometimes I get overloaded with all of the hate that comes with this job. That’s when I need to make time to go back home to Boston to get emotional uplifting. All of my family lives in the district the Congresswoman represents, so what I do here directly affects them.
Q: Do you have any friends or relatives who are Trump supporters?
Q: If Trump invited you to the White House, would you go?
No. Anyone who has ever worked for Ayanna Pressley is part of the “A-Team,” part of the Congresswoman’s chosen family. Every A-Team member in our office has taken an oath not to go if invited. Congresswoman Pressley said she is not going until the current occupant of the White House is gone. In the spring, there’s a big garden tour at the White House. We got tickets for it, and this year not one of our constituents asked for a ticket. Those tickets went unused. We got tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll, and I traded them for tickets to the African American Museum.
Q: What phone app could you not live without?
Q: Who’s your 2020 Presidential Dream team?
President Elizabeth Warren and Vice President Julian Castro.