Among the important people walking the halls of the state house this week are ten eighth-graders. They are the first group of legislative pages starting their six-week assignment in Montpelier.
VPR’s Betty Smith joined them as their work got under way.
(Sound of cars)
At 7 a.m. traffic was already steady on State Street in front of the capitol in spite of near zero temperatures and piles of fresh snow. Street lights, holiday lights and lights in surrounding buildings cut through the early morning darkness. The capitol dome glowed under an overcast sky.
(Sound of Deputy Sergeant of Arms greeting pages with noise in the background)”Hello thereÂ¿.”
Inside the statehouse, custodians were still vacuuming the carpets in Room 11 as Deputy Sergeant at Arms Cornelius Reed greeted the pages in their distinctive green blazers and handed out their first assignment of the day: delivering documents to various locations around the State House. Maps were consulted with the help of doorkeepers Teresa Randall and James Ross.
(Voices of Ross, Randall and Pages in discussion) “I need Alison and AbraÂ¿right on the ousideÂ¿okay, this wayÂ¿you can get in.”
And so they were off. But soon they were back, hanging coats in lockers, missions accomplished.
(Pages Alison DeGraff and Abra Metz Dworkin) ” It was very fun. Everybody likes talking to us and telling us where to go.” (Sound of locker closing)
By 10:30 on this morning of the first week in the session, four of the pages sat at a large table in the middle of the ornate House Chamber, carefully scanning the assembly when not delivering messages. The rest were at their own stations around the building. The pages come here for a variety of reasons.
(Montage of Pages) “Well, I wanted to learn more about government from a first-hand kind of perspective on it, to actually be here when it’s going onÂ¿ . I really wanted to learn more about the government and you couldn’t get first-hand in schoolÂ¿. I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn some stuff about our governmentÂ¿. Well, I want to be a lawyer, soÂ¿.”
Being a page might seem a bit old-fashioned in this age of lap tops and cell phones, but Doorkeeper Teresa Randall says that the pages are more than just a pleasant tradition.
(Randall) It’s not just passing messages from one legislator to another while they’re in session. With our legislators not having their own offices and staff, all of their phone calls come into the Sergeant at Arms office, then have to be delivered through the building and I don’t think that will ever change. So I don’t think pages will ever be obsolete.
And as the heat builds in Montpelier this winter, the presence of these eighth graders may also keep lawmakers mindful of the future.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Betty Smith at the Statehouse.