Julie Potter knew at age 10 that she wanted to be involved in politics when she heard her parents vehemently disagreeing with political reports on National Public Radio.

As an 18-year-old senior at Model Laboratory School, Potter was able to get an upclose view of the political process at work as a page during the 2006 General Assembly in Frankfort.

“I learned a lot actually,” she said. “It’s still the career I want to go into. I learned a lot about how the political process really works and how (bills) can just die if they’re not pushed hard enough. It also gave me hope because, although people always talk badly about politicians, I realized they still have the motivation to help people.”

Her duties as a page included delivering minutes and other papers, and during the session, she would sit in front of the clerk’s desk, facing the senators in the Senate chambers, on call in case a bill, coffee or anything else was needed.

“Sometimes I spent five hours a day (in Frankfort) and a few days I spent 16 hours,” said Potter, who has served as captain of the girls’ tennis team and student council vice president at Model. “Those (16-hour days) were hard and interesting. You try to find the humor in things that normally aren’t funny. The later in the session it got, the more intense it got. It was extremely laid back in the beginning. The last three days were pretty crazy.”

When she served last year as a one-day page for Sen. Ed Worley, D-Richmond, Potter was given a contact number by Sen. David Williams, R-Burkesville, to call in an attempt to return this year for the entire legislative session, a task usually only afforded to Franklin County students.

However, Potter, daughter of Bev and Wayne Penkalski, was able to work with the principal and guidance counselor at Model Lab to not only experience the legislative process first-hand, but receive school credit for her role as a page as well.

The experience of watching the legislative process will help open doors when applying for internships, said Potter, who plans to major in political science at Berea College in the fall.

Eventually, Potter, who half-jokingly told Worley that she was going to take over as state senator after him, would love to run for office herself.

“If everything plays out right, I’d like to be a federal senator for Kentucky at some point in time,” she said.

During her stint as page, Potter was able to make a lot of good contacts by spending time in the offices of various senators.

Sen. Elizabeth Tori, R-Radcliff, gave her a Kentucky keychain as a memento and she has a signed photo with Worley and Williams thanking her for the job she did.

“It’s a very open atmosphere,” Potter said. “There’s a lot of open offices and everyone’s walking around. I got to know Senator Tori very well.”

Seeing fiery political debates upclose and meeting and getting to know the senators will be what she will remember the most.

“(The experience) has opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Potter said. “There is still a lot I need to learn and a lot of things I need to adapt in myself. But, it’s motivated me more and more to go into (politics.)”

“I’m incredibly glad that I got to do it,” she said. “I look every day in the newspapers to see if a special session has been called so I can go back. I’m hoping they will.”

Bryan Marshall can be reached at bmarshall@richmondregister.com or 624-6691.

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