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Former town hall intern Don Rawling in front of the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C.

Former Durham intern heads to D.C.


Working in government isn’t quite like what you see on TV, but there are kernels of truth in television, according to Don Rawling, a former Town of Durham intern and Coginchaug Regional High School graduate, who is headed to an internship in Washington D.C. while earning a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University.

Rawling has previously worked at the state capitol and served on the Town of Durham’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Task Force.

In 2007, only two years after graduating high school, Rawling was an intern at the Durham Town Hall. “I got to work with Laura Francis, who was town clerk at the time – of course, now she’s first selectman,” Rawling said. After that, he worked with Kim Garvis, the current town clerk.

“He had a great head on his shoulders,” Garvis recalled. Garvis said that Rawling was a great help when Durham was working on bringing the town proceedings book up to date.

Garvis remembered Rawling as a hard worker who was great both as a team member and as someone working independently on projects, with an impressive ability to figure things out on his own. “He was a great kid,” Garvis said.

Rawling said that shows about government, such as Parks and Recreation and House of Cards, are “dramatized to a certain extent, but the plotlines do come from a lot of truth. That’s the fun part of being and working in government: you get to work with a lot of different personalities.”

Rawling said that one thing he thinks most people don’t know about government is that legislators “really do take into account everybody’s input. People may not think that their voice has any influence, but when people submit testimony, legislators really do see that, especially coming from their district.”

“A lot of people feel like their vote doesn’t mean that much, but it’s not true. It’s one of the top rights we have as U.S. citizens,” Rawling said.

It all started for Rawling when he took A.P. U.S. Government with Coginchaug teacher Julie Selberg. That class included an assignment to work on a campaign, and Rawling got his “first taste of what government was about” working on the campaign to elect State Rep. Ray Kalinowski.

“Mrs. Selberg really loves what she does,” Rawling said.

Rawling said his advice to current high school students is to “follow your interests. If you are interested in government, reach out to people in your community. You never know what a family member, friend’s parent, or teacher might know.”

There are great opportunities available for high school students, including in the state capitol, Rawling said.

The last piece of advice Rawling has is true in any field, whether “in the private sector or for non-profits… People make a lot of emphasis on how important networking is, and it’s totally true.”



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