Margaret Doherty is one of the best people I know.
Even when I worked for her in the legislature, Margaret was as much of a friend as she was a boss. From her example, I've learned a lot.
One of the first things she told me when I started working for her was this: take your job seriously, but not yourself. That's probably the best professional advice I've ever received. There was not a single day of working with Margaret that I didn't laugh -- and usually I was laughing within a few minutes of hopping in her car on the way to work (yes, she was my boss and chauffeur). But Margaret takes her job as a State Representative seriously, and I don't just mean while she's in the house chamber. Margaret goes to and volunteers at everything -- every local non-profit fundraiser, neighborhood Democratic Party event, social gathering, local government meeting, the list goes on -- because that's what a good representative does. They stay in touch with their community so they can represent them. I've been with Margaret on multiple occasions when she gave up her evening to speak to groups whose membership can be counted on two hands -- but it sure meant a lot to them to have her there.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and business guru, often talks about how the “generosity gene” is the one unique character trait that all good leaders, managers, and bosses share. Margaret is a perfect case study of this principle; she is generous in small and big ways. When I worked for her, she would regularly bring lunch to work for me, or baked goods for the legislative staffers on our floor. She sends people notes and cards on important occasions, even when everyone else forgets. She asks about your family and your relationships. She really cares about people. I worked for Margaret two separate times, and both times I left to take other job opportunities. You can tell a lot about an employer by how they treat you when you leave. Margaret could not have been kinder or more supportive, both times. She wanted what was best for me, even if it wasn't necessarily what was easiest for her. That's a rare thing from an employer, and even rarer in politics -- but it's who she is.
One thing I admire about Margaret is that she doesn’t showboat. She doesn’t seek out media attention, or praise, or recognition, and she sure as hell isn’t angling for the next higher office. When I worked for her, my favorite way to rib her was to tell people she was preparing to run for Governor, Senator, etc. -- her response was usually, “I’d rather have my gums scraped without Novocaine." Her whole career -- including ten years as a high school teacher -- has been about service. It's been about people. I was lucky to work for Margaret because I had a role model who always put people and relationships over politics. Her friends in the legislature are Democrats and Republicans (and probably in about equal number), but they're also non-partisan committee administrators and clerks and legislative assistants. There's not an ounce of Margaret that thinks or acts like she's too important or too busy for other people. I can't tell you how many times other staffers would tell me, "You are so lucky you get to work for Margaret." I always knew they were right.
Right before I moved down to Stanford for school, Margaret took me out to dinner at my favorite restaurant in Tigard. She got me the perfect gifts for my next chapter and a card with a dragonfly on the front. “In many cultures the dragonfly symbolizes change, renewal and new beginnings,” the card reads.
Inside, she inscribed the perfect message. She knows that I'm going to school to study education policy, and having spent her career in education as a teacher, a representative for the teachers' union, and now as Chair of the House Education Committee, she knows a thing or two about this work. “Always remember that, when all is said and done, education is for the kids. Everything we do should keep them in mind,” she wrote. That says a lot about Margaret Doherty.
Happy birthday, boss -- thank you for all you've taught me and all you've done for me. Take the night off, watch some re-runs of the Bachelor, and enjoy some turkey and dressing.