Intern gets turn in Legislature

By Michael Davis

When Ryan Breniman graduated high school, he wasn't exactly sure what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. The 24-year-old grew up in Pennsylvania but after a stint in the U.S. Army, he settled down with his wife, Audrey, in McDonough and did some thinking.

"In high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do with myself, but I knew I was good at history," Breniman said.

Now, Breniman is hoping an internship at the state Legislature will provide him some lessons in modern history.

Breniman was chosen to join about 30 legislative interns this year from across the state for the 2005 session of the Georgia General Assembly. As a student and history major at Clayton College & State University in Morrow, Breniman is getting course credit as he learns the ins and outs of the lawmaking process.

He's also providing insight to his boss, House Higher Education committee chairman Rep. Bill Hembree, R-Douglasville, on just what it's like these days to be on campus.

"Evidently, I must have some friends in the Speaker's office," Hembree said, adding that Breniman, "is there every day so he's in a great position to give me advice."

A junior at Clayton State, Breniman is already thinking about life off campus and the possibility of law school.

But, he's also using his 40 days under the Gold Dome to give him an idea of what it takes to be a state lawmaker.

"He would be a fine legislator," Hembree said.

Breniman however, is not so sure just yet. "As a politician, you have to put everything else aside," he said, adding that the Legislative process is more complex than he had imagined.

"It's amazing how many people you have to get to agree," he said.

On a typical day, Breniman answers constituent phone calls, updates the 16 other Higher Education committee members on meeting times, retrieves legislation for Hembree's review or attends committee meetings and other functions. "It think it's absolutely the best committee I could've been assigned to," he said.

"I really hope to get a good feel for the legislative part – the link between colleges and universities and the Legislature and get a good feel for what they do," Breniman said.

Before coming to Clayton State, Breniman was a Cavalry scout in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Stewart, and saw seven months of duty in Bosnia in late 2000 and early 2001. He and Audrey, a metro Atlanta native, met while she was a student at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah and Breniman was stationed at Fort Stewart.

"We decided not to move back up north," Ryan said.

After graduating next spring, he hopes to enroll in Georgia State University's College of Law. And who knows, maybe politics.

"Until I know I can do that for sure, I don't want to commit to people that I can represent them," he said.