New chief of staff for senate majority leader has local ties
by Dennis Sharkey
When Stephanie Mullholland was spending her weekends and summers in Oskaloosa as a young girl she probably never thought about having an office in the biggest and most important building in the state.
“It’s awe-inspiring every day to walk into a building like this and to think about what we do here and how important it is and how it affects people’s day-to-day lives.” she said. “I’m not sure it’s something you could ever get tired of.”
Mullholland’s new job is chief of staff for Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jay Elmer, R-McPherson, and her new office is behind the Senate Chambers of the Kansas State House.
Mullholland grew up in Topeka but spent weekends and summers in Oskaloosa with her father Dave Taylor.
Mullholland is not new to politics and got her start as a student at Washburn University running campaigns for student body president.
“I think once that gets in your blood it stays in your blood,” she said.
All of her jobs leading in to her current position have dealt with communication.
Her first full-time job after school was directing communication for the National Electrical Contractors Association. From there she moved to the Kansas Press Association where she was the assistant director for communications, worked in members’ services and dabbled in governmental affairs.
From there Mullholland moved to the Kansas Action for Children, a not-for-profit organization that lobbies on issues and legislation that affects children. She got to know some legislators by talking to them about children’s issues and how legislation would impact communities.
Mullholland’s name was given to Elmer by former Rep. Lee Tafanelli, who she had done freelance campaign work for in the past. She and Elmer met, talked about the job and she accepted.
Mullholland’s new job still requires a lot of communication, however, who she’s communicating with is quite different.
Before, her communications were focused on a membership group or legislators. Now, her primary focus is communicating with the public at large.
“Now I’m kind of on the other end of that,” she said.
Mullholland said most of her time is spent dealing with constituent issues that could range from getting answers to why someone’s unemployment benefits are not arriving to listening to concerns from business owners or administrators who have their eye on a piece of legislation that may affect them or those they serve.
In addition, the office she works in sets the calendar for the Senate and serves the Republican caucus of 32 senators.
In her first couple of weeks Mullholland said she has a good grasp of the position but there are new challenges around every corner.
“I think this is a job where there is something new to learn every day,” she said. “I think I feel comfortable that I know where to go to get the answers.”
Mullholland said she thought she had a good grasp of the legislative process before coming to work for Elmer but has since learned differently.
“Being on the outside you think you know it,” she said. “But once you get in to the real practice of it, there are new twists and turns to learn.”
Mullholland said working with the public is rewarding and something she thinks about when getting ready for the day.
“Every day is something new and something exciting and it’s a privilege to be part of what we do here,” she said.
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