Pilsners & Politics: Jeff Mayes

15 Jan

What’s better than an evening of drinks with fellow young professionals? Throwing politics into the mix! At the year’s first Pilsners & Politics event, hosted at the Midland Center for the Arts’ Saints and Sinners lounge, a group of 18 young (or young at heart) professionals gathered to enjoy a brew and talk about the political climate in Michigan at the start of an important election year.

Our guest was Jeff Mayes, who got into politics at age 12 by helping a friend’s dad run for office. Jeff himself was elected from Bay City to the Michigan House of Representatives at age 33. After six years in the House, Jeff moved on to his current position as the Director of Economic Development Strategy for Consumers Energy. At the event, he took some time to reflect back on his past life in politics, and how there are a lot of positives we don’t always see.

Jeff Mayes

Jeff Mayes (MLive photo)

This was a great evening for several reasons:

  1. We got to ask a lot of questions. With the Internet, the pace of life and the general political climate, it can seem like all politicians do is give speeches. Pilsners & Politics events are small enough to put the focus on what the attendees want to know, and they’re relaxed enough to let the speaker be candid with his or her responses… even if one of the attendees is taking notes for a blog post.
  2. It wasn’t a typical political discussion. As in, we didn’t focus on people or specific issues as much as the overall political process: What do we do about polarization between the political parties? What’s it like getting into office? What’s it like getting out of office? How do you work across the aisle? These are the kinds of things you don’t always have time to ask in a crowded room – but when you’re sitting in a small circle with a drink, you can get answers.
  3. Things are actually pretty good out there. Jeff mentioned that politicians quickly find it’s in their own best interest to compromise. “Government is very much an interactive sport,” he said. “New people hit first and then they’re shocked and appalled when others hit back.” He said politicians quickly find they have leeway to compromise on any issue, and the best part of politics was “really working with others to get to solutions.” Even though cooperation doesn’t often get reported (“because it doesn’t sell papers”), it’s happening every day.
  4. We learned everyone can be politically active. Anybody can run for office, Jeff assured us, as long as they’re willing to commit the time it takes. “You have to say, ‘Until Election Day, I’m suspending my life to some degree,’” he said. But the rewards are great, not least because political involvement opens people’s eyes to new and different sides of their community and local issues.
  5. Beer. Actually, I had a mixed drink. But that was good too.

If relaxing, having a drink and getting real political answers sounds like a good time (and it is), keep an eye out for upcoming Pilsners & Politics events later this year. In the meantime, comment on this post and let us know what other politically themed events or gatherings you’d like to see! With almost every single Michigan office up for reelection this year, 2014 is a crucial time for us to be involved in shaping our state’s political future.

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