In 1998, the Chamber of Commerce began an internship program with UW-Eau Claire. 21 years and 23 interns later, that partnership is still strong. I, Nate Kane, am this year’s legislative-affairs intern, and my involvement with the Chamber has been priceless. It’s common to hear about up-and-coming cities and towns. They’re in our magazines; they're on our shows; and, more recently, they're on our twitter feeds. But it’s rare to actually be a member of those communities and to be a reason for their growth. We here in Eau Claire shouldn’t let that slip our minds. Throughout the past few years, we have built the Confluence Center out of nothing; we have revitalized an entire downtown sector; and we have nearly secured funding for a science building that will bring the brightest medical minds right into our city. The Chamber has led much of that, and in doing so it has reminded us all of the unique place we occupy in this town’s (and in this state’s) history. That can be easy to forget. But because of the Chamber, I, for one, will remember that for the rest of my life.
2018-19 Chamber Interns Nate Kane (L) and Emma Koehn (R)
As mentioned, the Chamber has worked with 23 students, and although we’ve shared many responsibilities (like attending monthly Eggs & Issues Breakfasts, recording minutes for committee meetings, and above all planning the Chippewa Valley Rally), we’ve each learned our own lessons, and we’ve each applied those lessons to a range professional fields. Today, former interns occupy coveted spots in law firms, lobbying offices, and even the federal government.
Take Bobby Hamill, for instance. An intern in 2009, he’s now the Senior Legislative Affairs Manager for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in Washington, DC. In that role, he lobbies Congress on behalf of our nation’s “rural electric cooperatives,” promoting solutions to “environmental and small business issues.” He credits the Chamber for helping him “develop the interpersonal skills that are critical” for successful lobbying.
In a somewhat different field, Marlin Hardinger (our 1999 intern) is out in Afghanistan negotiating peace with the Middle East. An official at the Department of State since 2002, Marlin began his post-Chamber career in the Wisconsin State Capitol as a legislative assistant for Representative Tom Sykora. Since then, he’s hopped all around the globe, completing assignments in Turkmenistan, Moldova, Nigeria, Kabul, and Kansas, to name only a few.
In other fields still, Tyrel Zich (2012) and Tyler Will (2013) live here in Eau Claire and work at Xcel Energy. Tyrel is Xcel’s Senior Rate Analyst, Tyler, its Inside Sales Representative. According to Tyrel, his work with the Chamber built the connections that led him into jobs with, among others, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. For Tyler’s part, he’s spent his entire career at Xcel, and given the company’s active involvement with the Chamber, his time as an intern has doubtless been valuable.
After Nick Verhaalen (2015) graduated and finished the internship at the Chamber, he went straight to law school where he obtained multiple legal internships. According to Nick, the Chamber prepared him for the legal research that is necessary in law school, as well as helped him develop his analytical skills. He is currently working as an attorney for DeMark, Kolbe & Brodek, S.C. in Racine, WI.
Peter Hienz (2017) is currently working in Madison as a Legislative Aid for State Senator Howard Marklein. The Chamber internship helped Peter get connected to the Capitol in Madison during the Chippewa Valley Rally and allowed him to obtain a job in the Capitol after graduation.
Last year, for the first time, the Chamber had two interns, Savannah Sepic and Kaylee Tracy. Savannah is currently working for the Minnesota Retailers Associations as a Government Relations Manager, where she often uses her skills interacting with public officials and legislators that she learned at the Chamber during her time as an intern. Kaylee, on the other hand, is currently waiting deployment as a missionary for EFCA ReachGlobal, where she will be working in Germany.
My co-intern, Emma Koehn, also has some comments about how the Chamber has helped her develop her professional goals: “After graduation, I hope to work at an advertising/public relations agency and help businesses develop their corporate social responsibility campaigns. The Chamber and the Chippewa Valley have introduced me to many businesses willing to do whatever they can to help the community, and I hope to help other companies give back like the ones in Eau Claire do. Getting an inside look at how Eau Claire is run has been extremely beneficial, and having the opportunity to meet many leaders in our community has given me a new appreciation for the city.”
The Chamber's 2019-20 Legislative Interns have now been selected. "Come this fall, the Chamber we'll be looking forward to working with Amy Oldenburg and Clayton Cavanaugh," said Scott Rogers, the Chamber's Governmental Affairs and Workforce Director. "We appreciated the great work Emma and Nate provided this year, and look forward to following their adventures."
Left to right, Emma Koehn (2018-19), Amy Oldenburg (2019-20),
Nate Kane (2018-19) and Clayton Cavanaugh (2019-20)
Posted by Nate Kane, Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.