April 16, 2018
VALDOSTA — Theodore Johnson came to Valdosta State University as an honors pre-med biology major dead set on becoming a doctor. Then he ran into trouble.
“I realized I couldn’t do math as well as I would have liked to, so I switched over to political science completely on a whim,” he said with a laugh.
That decision led him into a world that intrigued and excited him and set him on a new career path. It also gave him the opportunity to spend the Georgia 2018 legislative session — Jan. 8 to March 31 — at the State Capitol in Atlanta as a Georgia House of Representatives intern.
Johnson worked in the office of Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington), where he briefed and advised the representative on current legislation, coordinated meetings, interacted with lobbyists, and attended special Capitol events, among other things.
He said a highlight of the internship was witnessing Crossover Day at the Capitol.
“That’s the last day for legislation to leave one chamber, whether it be the House or Senate, to make it over in time for consideration in the secondary,” he said. “It’s really cool to watch how lobbyists and legislators have to get down to brass tacks. If there’s something that is holding up their bill that might stop it from making it through, they have to make concessions on the spot while maintaining their constituents’ best interests. That was astounding and exciting to see.”
Johnson, from Marietta, Georgia, was initially interested in the internship because of the networking opportunities it offered, and he said his time at VSU prepared him to make valuable connections at the Capitol.
“I did a lot of networking up there,” he said. “I’m a member of VSU’s Delta Chi fraternity, and that really got me into the habit of talking to every person I meet and not just playing the wallflower role. That really came in handy when I was put into Leader Burns’ office, where hundreds of different lobbyists come in every single day.”
He added that his VSU professors, specifically Dr. Marc Pufong and Dr. James LaPlant in the Department of Political Science, helped him to succeed in real-world politics.
“I took numerous constitutional law and administration law classes that really gave me quite an insight into what I’d be doing as an intern,” he said. “I got involved in political science completely on a whim. It was never anything that I had given much consideration to in high school. But once I got into it, I realized how big of an impact it has.
“Government touches everybody, and the law plays a huge role in the nation. I’m very glad that I have stuck with this field.”
Johnson, the son of Joanne Trimble and Kevin Johnson, expects to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. He plans to attend law school starting in the fall.
“I’ve already been accepted to five law schools, so I’ve been set up very well by Valdosta State,” he said.
He hopes to practice in the area of intellectual property law but is open to exploring other areas as well.
“And because of how welcoming the political community has been and because of the relationships that I’ve made, it’s not asinine for me to think that one day I might run for a representative position,” he added.
While at VSU, Johnson has completed more than 100 hours of community service through his fraternity, including volunteering at food banks, maintaining a section of highway, and providing aid to those affected by natural disasters. He has also participated in the fraternity’s annual fundraiser for The V Foundation for Cancer Research. He served as the fraternity’s director of residential oversight from 2014 to 2015. He was a member of the Honors College at VSU from 2013 to 2014. He was also chosen to present at VSU’s Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2015, where he presented his study titled “Georgia and the Transition of Political Tendencies,” which discusses Georgia’s transition from a one-party Democratic state to a nearly one-party Republican state over the last half of the 20th century.