Day Thirteen: Brian Sims & The Local Office

Being around people under 30 who are incredibly accomplished used to inspire me. Now it gives me nerve pain. It’s like cold on a tooth, or sciatica of the spirit. It is too close to the bone, brushing against something raw and exposed.

Yeah yeah yeah; angst, aches, discomfort, dyspepsia . . . Metaphors of the body aside, let’s get real – it makes me jealous.

Before we moved to our new house, I noticed a poster in the window of a neighbor two doors down. A boisterous neighbor. A neighbor who seemed to be the mayor of the block. A neighbor who it would be good to be on the good side of, and who it would be smart to watch. And so I did, studying his attitudes about the other denizens of our street; the way he smiled longer at Kevin than at me; his total disinterest in our dogs; his santa-like jolliness with children and his penchant for spinning them around by the arms. And a poster in his window – Vote for Brian Sims. It showed an attractive young man standing against a blue sky, running for some office (it didn’t seem to bother mentioning it on said poster), and was propped up crookedly in the front window behind a flower box. It somehow reminded me of a school president campaign poster from Saved by the Bell. But I liked it. He looked like a real person. I had no idea who he was, what he was running for, or what he did; but I liked it.

Who was Brian Sims?

Fast forward to a month ago, when I learn he lives down the street from me.

I went home and googled him.

His website feels broad but pleasant – Sims is invested in education, in “cleaning up Harrisburg,” in helping constituents navigate the rabbit holes of civic paperwork. While he sites specific programs, departments, and acts which he supports, for someone like me reading over it – a lefty intellectual/ignoramus, with little familiarity with what PACENET or School Fnding & Accountability Formula are, let alone that there is a Department of Aging (seriously?? are we in a T.C. Boyle story??) – it sounds like liberal, logical, humanistic politics. Still, I like him. Yet further still, the question lingers –

Who is Brian Sims?

From google-stalking, reading press, and finding him on Facebook, one fact about Brian Sims seems to be the title of his calling card:

First openly-gay state rep for Pennsylvania.

Now I’m really intrigued. So, of course, I followed him on Facebook.

Brian Sims  toes the line between person/persona very well. He posts updates from the car and tags his buddies; he has a well-maintained professional page. He kvetches about his bank charging $14 and freezing his account out of nowhere, and posts his honest thoughts about articles written about him in national publications. He writes about being excited to go to orientation at the capitol; links to the Mayor’s office’s declaration of Transgender Day of Rememberance; posts photos of bathing his dog; and goes to see the Philadelphia Orchestra. He also has amazing pictures like the one below. This is my kind of politics/politician.

Usually I like to read his posts on my news feed – it lets me know about some LGBTQ events and news in the city, and I’m (obviously) curious and intrigued to know more about Rep. Sims. Tonight, though, sent my phantom limbs a-tingling. I saw on Facebook that Sims just announced two members of his cabinet. They give me serious nerve pain. Take a look:


PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 27) – State Representative-Elect Brian Sims (D – 182), the Commonwealth’s first openly gay member of the legislature, today announced two key staff appointments – Mason Lane as Chief of Staff and Anna Aagenes as District Office Director.

“Philadelphia is full of really strong, progressive professionals and I knew I had an opportunity to recruit some of the best for these new positions,” said Sims. “Mason and Anna will be fully integrated in every part of the work that I do to represent Center City. I’m pleased to work with them, but I’m also very excited by the talents that each will bring to the District and to Harrisburg.”

Lane, in his newly appointed role as Chief of Staff, will develop and implement legislative initiatives, advise on policy matters, and oversee office operations. Currently a third-year law student at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, Lane has simultaneously been serving as Sims’ Transition Director since the April 24 primary victory over longtime incumbent Representative Babette Josephs. Lane previously served as the Eastern Pennsylvania Field Organizer and Policy Coordinator for Equality Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth’s LGBT political advocacy organization. A 2007 graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Lane was born and raised in Center City, Philadelphia.

“Brian is a fantastic, natural leader, and I know that he will be an even better legislator,” said Lane, 27, an alumnus of the Center for Progressive Leadership. “Over the last few months we’ve been able to start reaching out to the people and partners that are going to make Brian as effective as he can be in the Capitol. Economic development, tax reform, education funding, and certainly civil rights are all on the table and we have strong partners and supporters here in Philadelphia to work with.”

Aagenes (Aw-guh-Nez) will manage the Philadelphia district office as Sims’ District Office Director in addition to overseeing constituent services, fostering and building organizational relationships, and directing community outreach and engagement. Prior to her newly appointed position, Aagenes worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with the Adolescent Initiative’s clinical research team, serving HIV positive youth. Aagenes graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, where, as Captain of the Women’s Track and Field Team, she became a NCAA Division I Regional qualifier and a school record holder in three events. A native Pennsylvanian, Aagenes hails from Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

“Not only am I honored to have the opportunity to work for Brian Sims, I am thrilled to better serve the Philadelphia community in a new capacity,” said Aagenes, 24, also an alumna of the Center for Progressive Leadership. “Brian, Mason, and I share the same desire to see progressive change happen on a state level and to simultaneously serve the diverse community we have right here in Philadelphia.”

Both Lane and Aagenes reside in Center City, Philadelphia. Lane is currently finishing his coursework at Temple Law and is set to graduate in May of 2013. Aagenes continues to advocate for young athletes as the Executive Director of GO! (Generation Out) Athletes, the nation’s first organization created to educate and empower LGBT student-athletes.

I have to say, the description of District Office Director sounds like my personal heaven. It’s exactly the kind of work I have tried to do through public schools, and it’s my focus and passion now that I’m here in Philadelphia – “fostering and building organizational relationships, and directing community outreach and engagement” is actually what I am trying to get my new business, Pedalogical, to do with community-based organizations, public services, and non-profits, and the thought is that I’ll document all the successes, pitfalls, and discoveries here.

So, of course, seeing that this is a job other people actually do at once excites, enrages, inspires, and terrifies me. Did I think I’d had an epiphany, when I’d really had a “duh”? Does this mean there’s a market, or competition, for what I’m looking to do? And my frustrated self – the sociopathic part of me that feels like I am the first person ever in the history of the United States to come up with this notion of creating a body that connects service providers in neighborhoods – thinks “Can an idea be plagarized?”

Once my heartburn subsided, my first thought was “I’ll write her an email! And find out how to volunteer and get involved! Then I’ll meet them and show I’m a smart hard worker, and in five years I’ll be a member of this big happy team and we’ll laugh about that time before we knew each other when I blogged about her like we were in a Kevin Smith movie about grassroots campaigning!” Then I saw that she was 24, and I became slightly nauseated at the thought of writing to volunteer my services (which, by the way, are as of yet undefined – what exactly am I offering here? And do I even have the time to offer it?). I’m not used to being older than real people, and it’s something I need to get used to; I really don’t want to be that 35 year old woman dressing the way she did in college, with Lisa Loeb glasses, flushed purple from drinking too much cabernet at an Irish dive bar, making bitchy blanket statements about how much I hate 23 year olds.

So, she’s 24. That’s OK. I could still reach out and learn something. Right?

Then again, I do have a tendency to reach out whenever something catches my eye. I’m like a magpie drawn to all that glitters, or a baby putting everything in its slobbery mouth – except that instead of glittering it’s particularly bureaucratic and dreary, and except that instead of my mouth it’s my Google calendar.

But really – I’m thinking that perhaps I will write an email. I’d like to find out how to get involved – I’d like to learn what someone in the position of  District Office Director does, how many people are in his district office, what their roles and influence are, how they work to advance Sims’ agenda, what he does in Harrisburg on his own – all of it. I’m curious about it. Which is curious – but wonderful – to me.

What do you think – write an email? If so, to whom, asking what? And why?


2 thoughts on “Day Thirteen: Brian Sims & The Local Office

  1. Hi Justine – I’m just getting familiar with, but I’m already a fan. You have such a great editorial voice and nuanced writing style…not to mention, you’re very, very funny. I was an active supporter of the Sims 4 PA campaign leading up to Brian’s historic victory over Babette Josephs in the primary. All joking aside, Brian hit a total home run with Mason and Anna – and as someone in his mid-thirties, I share your nerve pain 🙂 Here’s a link to my Facebook page – I shared your article earlier today –
    Keep up the great work!

  2. Pingback: Day Sixteen: New Month Resolutions | Civicization

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