WASHINGTON — Haley Stevens is ecstatic about her new job — even if her constituents don’t always recognize her.
The first-term U.S. House member is back home in her Oakland and Wayne counties district this week, as Congress is not in session. Stevens, 35, said she planned to speak to students, host coffee hours and stop by the zoo.
She also likes to drop into diners and say “hello” to her constituents, some of whom don’t know who she is. The Rochester Democrat said she’s “grateful for when people know I’m their congresswoman,” adding, “I’m still a freshman.”
Stevens has been thrilled with her freshman class colleagues, her committee assignments and the rollout of her first piece of legislation, she told the Michigan Advance last week.
She’s enjoying some of the surprise perks of the job, too.
“As a member of Congress, we’re the only ones able to check out books from the [Library of Congress]. I did not know that,” she said. “I haven’t checked out a book yet, but I’ve gotten my library card and I go over there and it’s great.”
Stevens helped fuel the Democratic takeover of the House this year by winning Michigan’s 11th District seat previously held by Republican Dave Trott, who retired. She’s chairwoman of a research and technology subcommittee and the co-president of the freshman class of House Democrats.
“I will tell you, there is a lot of love in this freshman class, there’s camaraderie and there’s this spirit of energy,” she said.
Four of those Democratic freshmen are from Michigan: Stevens and U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Holly, Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township and Rashida Tlaib of Detroit.
“The ideologies run the spectrum, but make no mistake about it, we’re a caucus united. We’re dedicated towards lowering the cost of health care, getting some big bills done on infrastructure, on innovation, on public education,” Stevens told the Advance.
The former President Barack Obama administration official won a five-way Democratic primary in August and went on to defeat GOP businesswoman Lena Epstein last year. Stevens decided to run for Congress when she was working for a digital manufacturing company in Chicago.
“I was seeing how quickly the technology was forming and changing,” she said.
Then she watched with frustration as the President Donald Trump administration proposed a budget seeking deep cuts to research and innovation funding.
Now she’s the chairwoman of a subcommittee that oversees research and technology. “It’s amazing,” she said.
She introduced her first piece of legislation last week, a bipartisan measure aimed at boosting early childhood science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
Stevens is also “thrilled” to have landed on the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, she said.
“Every time when I was on the campaign trail, I heard from people on the need to improve public education, the need to stand up to [U.S. Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos, to set the tone, to do education policy from the bottom up. That’s how I’m going to legislate, not from the top down, but truly from the district on up.”
As for what she hopes to ask DeVos, Stevens said, “I think the question I want to ask her is why did she continue to stand by policies that have repeatedly shown that they fail our public schools and our students?”
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