A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Commentary: Sheila Mason’s 50-year career at the State Capitol is worthy of recognition

By Senate President Robert Stivers, House Speaker David Osborne, Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey and House Minority Floor Leader Joni L. Jenkins

When General Assembly interns show up for their first day at the State Capitol, one of the first things they learn is that the well-being of our representative democracy depends on upholding the people’s trust in their government.

Fortunately, they don’t need to look any further than the person welcoming them to see a living embodiment of this principle.

Sheila Mason is recognized as one of the most respected and dedicated public servants in Frankfort.

Sheila Mason, who coordinates the intern program and serves as the Legislative Research Commission’s Legislative Record Compiler, is recognized as one of the most respected and dedicated public servants in Frankfort. This month, her career at the State Capitol reaches its 50-year mark, a milestone worth celebrating for a daughter of Frankfort who grew up in a family that ran a small grocery store just blocks from the Capitol. Today, Sheila knows this building, its people, and its operations as well as anyone.

Sheila embodies the qualities we want young folks to see upon their introduction to legislative staff service. Even on the most hectic days of a legislative session, she offers a steady presence and good humor. She’s often quick to express that we’re all fortunate to work together serving the public.

Hundreds of college students who served as legislative interns over the years look to Sheila as a mentor, and many say she has been the most important figure in their professional lives. It’s not uncommon for former interns whose stints at the Capitol ended years ago to keep in touch with Sheila and express their fondness for her impact on their lives.

One reason Sheila connects so well with young people getting their first experience at the Capitol is because she remembers what it’s like to be a new worker in this historic building.

As Sheila tells it, she was “a wild child” of the 60s who faced a bit of a culture shock in 1970 when she began working on the Capitol campus for the Department of Revenue. Her previous experience working on the campus came during a year she spent cleaning offices with a janitorial company to help with her college expenses. But soon after starting at the Department of Revenue, her initial apprehension was replaced with camaraderie as she bonded with her fellow number crunchers over their work and formed lasting friendships.

When Sheila came to the Legislative Research Commission in 1980, she again was a bit apprehensive about the challenges ahead. The LRC had a reputation as the premier place to work in state government, staffed with some of the sharpest workers around. Again, Sheila quickly prevailed and found that her love of public service helped her fit in well while working with others who were dedicated to supporting the operations of the people’s branch of government.

Though Sheila is recognized for her work with interns, she’s also the behind-the-scenes force responsible for the Legislative Record, the ever-changing document that lets everyone know what’s happening to bills and resolutions under consideration during a legislative session.

The Record is looked at thousands of times each day online and in print during legislative sessions by advocates, journalists, policymakers, and citizens. The fact that this comprehensive resource is produced each day is a testament to Sheila’s exacting standards and attention to detail. When others in the Capitol are wrapping up a long day’s work, Sheila’s workday often continues with the crucial task of making sure the day’s updates are made to the Record so that people throughout the state can stay connected to the legislative process.

Outside of work, Sheila continues setting an example for others. She has led a community/youth service board and the Kentucky Historical Society Executive Committee; served as the head of the local utility provider board; spent countless hours on community projects; and was an author and editor of a 2003 book, Community Memories: A Glimpse of African American Life in Frankfort, Kentucky.

She is respected as someone whose diligence and integrity has benefitted people in all corners of the state. On behalf of all members of the General Assembly, Republican and Democrat, we thank Sheila for showing what a tremendous impact someone devoted to serving others ahead of herself can have in our state.

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  1. constance a alexander says:

    So glad to see Sheila Mason receiving recognition for the fine work she does behind the scenes. She is committed to Kentucky and serves the commonwealth in many ways, including years of service on the board of the Kentucky Historical Society. Sending a sincere “thank you” to Sheila for all she has done and continues to do.

  2. Marilyn Dishman says:

    Congratulations, my dear friend! You have experienced and seen so much over the years. You will have a write a book about it. I do hope that whenever you retire–you will not seek another job. I hope you pass on your knowledge and passion to others who need some guidance. Bless you, my friend.
    Marilyn Dishman

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