Before James R. Kelley was elected to be a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, he was a state senator. Those years he served in the senate were 1973 to 1988. That's when our lives intersected. Mine was going to take an unexpected turn.
Through a mutual acquaintance, the late JoAnne W. Boyle who had been president of Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA, I was interviewed for the position of the senator's research assistant.
When he offered the job, I took it. That was even though I knew 1) he had fired his previous research assistant and 2) I didn't feel emotionally safe to be working in a basement office on W. Otterman Street, in Greensburg, with his chief of staff, Frieda. Regarding the latter, I had been an abused child who had learned to pick up on danger. Disaster was in the making.
So why did I allow myself to get into that pickle?
Hey, I was part of the Lost Generation of Humanities Scholars. We didn't get tenure-track jobs teaching college. That means that I was stranded between cultures.
No longer was I a member of the academic community. As yet I hadn't put together a professional persona which would align with what non-academic employers would hire. The research assistant job could provide new coordinates for a professional identity.
Before that happened, though, like my predecessor, I got the boot. Now what, I thought.
The what turned out to be writing professionally. Back in the mid 1970s, Greensburg mirrored Mayberry. Bored, lonely, humiliated because I got the ax and with nothing to lose, I pitched an article on lobbying to Family Circle. When I handed it in, the editors said I had better insights than Jack Anderson. Mmm, it was obvious I did pick up something in The Senator's office. Maybe I was moving forward, not stuck.
Soon enough my portfolio of published articles in brandname media was bulging. I landed a full time job writing in the news department at the University of Pittsburgh, then in what would become Chevron, a D.C. trade association and Chrysler during the Lee Iacocca turnaround. That heady ride continued until recently. As in law, a glut and fee depreciation came to writing.
That era ended today. I attended orientation for a fresh career path in analytics. The Senator's face was a flashback as I filled out the tax and insurance forms. Had I a legal blog back then things might have played out much differently. For nine years now, blogging on legal subjects sends the message: Dude, don't even think about messing with me.