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Summer of Civics

Monday, August 1, 2016
Tanner Kohfield ’18 and Alex Perkowski ’18 Trinity students intern in San Antonio’s Office of the Mayor

Tanner Kohfield ’18 (left) and Alex Perkowski ’18 were summer interns in the Office of the Mayor

Trinity students intern in San Antonio’s Office of the Mayor

by Carlos Anchondo ’14

In the shadow of the San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio’s City Hall is home to Mayor Ivy R. Taylor and the 10 City Council members that represent the Alamo City. Located at 100 Military Plaza, City Hall was also home to Tanner Kohfield ’18 and Alex Perkowski ’18, summer interns in the Office of the Mayor. Kohfield and Perkowski secured their internships through Trinity’s Arts, Letters, and Enterprise (ALE) program, a program built on the University’s liberal arts core and its business administration program.

As interns, Kohfield and Perkowski gained a new perspective about the work required to make a city of 1.4 million citizens run. Kohfield, a political science and economics double major from Austin, Texas, spent the majority of his internship preparing for the San Antonio Housing Summit set for Sept. 30. The goal of the summit is to grow healthy and diverse cities where a variety of housing options exist.

In planning for the summit, Kohfield contacted speakers, drafted internal memos about agenda topics and workshops, and summarized reports about city planning.

“This internship has made me more interested in housing policy,” Kohfield says. “Working on this project, I have talked to and heard from citizens from different parts of San Antonio, and it has broadened my perspective on who lives here, what is important to them, and where people want the city to go in the future.”

Kohfield recalls the first time he was asked to offer his opinion on the summit’s speakers list and how he initially felt nervous about sharing his thoughts. Unease quickly turned into pride as he realized that his bosses valued his insight. Another favorite moment came as Kohfield watched the mayor deliver a speech to the San Antonio Board of Realtors. He says he admires her ability to address a crowd and understand the issues.

Like Kohfield, Perkowski says this internship has made him more aware of the problems faced by different segments of San Antonio. No stranger to politics, Perkowski has worked on the mayoral campaign of Mike Villarreal and the state senate race of Trey Martinez Fischer. He was drawn to this internship because he wanted to know what happens after campaigning ends and the act of governing begins.

A political science major from Spring, Texas, Perkowski spent the summer under the guidance of Andrew Solano, political adviser and Mayor Taylor’s liaison to city council. Perkowski regularly attended council meetings and noted where members stood on the issues. He also conducted research for the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), a collaboration of city, county, judicial, and law enforcement officials to address shared problems in the criminal justice system. Perkowski looked for shared interests between the CJCC and efforts by the Texas State Senate and House regarding criminal justice.

Whether he was summarizing notes from City Council meetings or drafting CJCC memos, Perkowski says the capacity to write efficiently served him well time and again. He credits this skill with Trinity’s “writing-focused curriculum.”

“At the mayor’s office, a huge part of my everyday was being able to describe and disseminate information in a meaningful way,” Perkowski says. “Trinity goes above and beyond to improve writing and verbal communication skills.”

Perkowski references annotated bibliographies for his first-year writing workshop and later for political science courses, noting that the ability to succinctly and accurately present information to his boss led to a relationship of trust.

As their internships conclude, Kohfield and Perkowski say that they are thankful for the ALE program and the doors it opened at the mayor’s office. All ALE interns are provided campus housing, a summer stipend, and the mentorship of a Trinity faculty member. They also earn one hour of Trinity course credit. In an industry where internships are often part time or unpaid, both Kohfield and Perkowski recognize their good fortune.

Working for a dedicated public servant, they add, is a tremendous bonus.

“Although her schedule is often filled months in advance, Mayor Taylor took the time to have lunch with us and we were able to have a real conversation with her,” Perkowski says. “It was so nice to talk with her and to learn about her as a person, rather than just a boss. She really is an awesome lady.”

Carlos Anchondo is a writer and editor for University Marketing and Communications. He is a 2014 graduate of Trinity and can be found at @cjanchondo or canchond [at] trinity.edu.