Learning the legislature

G-R senior enjoying page experience with Speaker Grassley

Gladbrook-Reinbeck Senior Henry Mussig, left, is serving as a page to Speaker of the House Pat Grassley, right, during the current legislative session. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Gladbrook-Reinbeck senior Henry Mussig can still remember the day when, as a fifth grader, he and his classmates took a trip to the Senate chambers at the Iowa Capitol during a legislative session, and a tour guide pointed out a high school student who was serving as a page.

“She said ‘Hey look, there’s a high school student right there in a maroon jacket, and they’re a page. And what they do here is they miss out on school and hang out at the Capitol and get paid,'” Mussig said. “At the time, as a fifth grade kid who was interested in history and politics, I thought that was the coolest thing ever.”

Apparently sensing his fascination, Mussig’s teacher told him he might make a good page someday. Fast forward seven years, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Mussig, who hails from Gladbrook and has plans to join the military after he graduates, is spending the semester working for Speaker of the House Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford who has held office since 2006. Because he has family in the Des Moines area, he enjoys free lodging with his aunt and uncle from Monday to Thursday before heading home for the weekend.

Because G-R runs on a trimester system, balancing the demands of finishing classes and obtaining the necessary credits to graduate is a bit more complicated for Mussig, but he’s adjusted nonetheless. During the second trimester, which starts in early November, he only had two classes — one of them online — and spent part of his day working for Cooley Pumping in Morrison, and he’s worked with closely with his teacher since the session started to make sure he’s meeting the requirements along with his online class and a semester long course at Hawkeye Community College.

One of the most important lessons Mussig has learned through his experience thus far is how exactly an idea becomes a bill that eventually, if it can garner enough support, becomes the law.

“I had no idea how it worked. I thought it was just (that) a representative had an idea, they wrote it down and it got voted on in the House and Senate and the Governor signed it,” he said. “But to see how it works with how the lobbyists play an integral part of it, how the Caucus staff works with it and you’ve got to work with the party leadership on both sides and make the bill a priority so it gets put into a subcommittee and then approved on committee and then put on the floor, that’s the most interesting (thing).”

Because of Grassley’s experience and his leadership position, Mussig said he’s had the chance to ask him anything and everything, and the Speaker is happy to answer his questions. The praise is mutual, as Grassley considers his page one of the best he’s ever had.

“Henry’s doing a tremendous job. He’s really stepped up, and you can tell when somebody’s doing a good job when even the other pages want to come back and ask questions of him and other things,” Grassley said. “He does whatever is asked of him, and anybody who’s from the NICL conference, we’ve come to expect that.”

And despite the rivalry between their schools — Grassley is a Dike-New Hartford alum who still supports his Wolverines however he can, and Mussig is a proud G-R Rebel — they’re able to put aside those differences whenever it’s time to get work done. In describing his job duties, Grassley said Mussig had the daunting task of sitting next to Gov. Kim Reynolds when she delivered her Condition of the State address, and on a day-to-day basis, he ensures speakers are recognized and does his best to keep whoever is in the speaker’s chair on topic. He also gets chances to interact with constituents who may be visiting the Capitol for the day.

“You also have to be able to represent the office as well, so it comes with some added responsibility,” Grassley said. “When all the FFA groups come down, he’s kind of a rockstar, you know, a local celebrity.”

As he looks forward, Mussig hasn’t decided on a college yet, but he plans to enroll in the ROTC program wherever he goes and intends to study international relations and/or economics.

“My goal is (that) I want to be an Army officer in the future, but other than that, I would love to do policy work, possibly, or something with state government. I’ve learned to have a fondness of state government, honestly, being here, because you get very close with your constituents,” he said. “I see other representatives. They’re just regular people doing good work here, and I’d love to be a part of that process in any way I can in the future.”

He could see himself even working on a politician’s staff down the road, but for now, he’s focused on finishing the session strong, getting his high school and diploma and preparing for the next steps in life, wherever they may take him.

“We’re always excited to have these opportunities, and every one of the students brings a different dynamic to this opportunity. So it’s been really fun, especially as they settle in,” Grassley said. “With session only being four or five months, you only have so long to really settle in, but (Mussig) has done that really quickly and it’s been really fun to watch.”