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Age no obstacle for rookie lawmakers

Posted: Tuesday, June 03, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio Two rookie representatives with stacks of legislation under their arms and aides next to them citing upcoming appointments race through 12-hour work days. They go from committee hearings to lobbyist meetings to Ohio House sessions.

As they learn the ropes of state governing, Clyde Evans and Kathleen Chandler sound, act and work like any other first-term state lawmakers despite their ages.

He's 64. She's 70.

On opposite sides of the aisle he's a Republican in the majority, she's a Democrat the two credit their ageless attitudes with fairly easy transitions to the state level after decades of local service.

They say that the obstacles they have faced learning the intricacies of how a bill becomes a law, trying to understand the state formula for funding schools and studying the state's economic woes are no different than what other novices have experienced.

''Quite frankly, I never even consider age as a factor in anything I do,'' said Evans, a white-haired fitness buff whose 6-foot-4-inch frame and graceful stride denotes his many years playing basketball. ''I don't notice myself getting older. I don't feel any different than I did when I was 21.''

Chandler says her age hasn't even been noted in the first four months of her new job.

''People have mistakenly thought that youth means energy,'' said Chandler, a petite brunette whose welcoming smile betrays her studious demeanor and leaves the corners of her mouth creased when it's gone.

''I have as much energy probably as many people younger than I am.''

She said she wanted to come to Columbus to continue working on education and the economy the two issues she worked on while living in Kent, the Akron suburb that is home to Kent State University.

Chandler, a one-time teacher and homemaker, said her entrance into state government is a natural progression after being a city council member, mayor and county commissioner in a life that has always centered on service.

''It's just that many of the things people do in life, I did a little bit later.''

She said her biggest challenge so far is common: learning all she can about state government.

''I love to learn, and we learn every single day of our lives, young or old,'' Chandler said. ''This is exciting to me.''

Her husband, Charles, a retired university professor, said her move to the Statehouse has been a bit of a role reversal.

''I did my thing and now she's doing her thing,'' he said. ''She takes her job seriously. She's a career politician through and through in the best sense of the word.''

Evans is a lifelong educator who left the No. 2 post at a university when he was elected. He had spent four decades serving on village and county boards and commissions before coming to the Statehouse.

The hardest part of the transition has been the seven-day-a-week schedule that public service requires. Private time can be limited with his wife of 40 years, their four adult children and five grandchildren under age 10.

His wife, Rosemary, a retired high school teacher of 33 years, said she was concerned initially about him not having any time for their grandchildren, but that has not been a problem. They often tag along with their grandparents to events.

''They're always campaigning for Pappy. They are so into it. They're just like little sponges, taking in all this information,'' she said.

And, she said, even though her husband is home less than before, little else has changed in their relationship because they still make time for each other.

''We still do things together and go places together was much as possible,'' she said. ''We're a team.''

Evans laments that perhaps the most annoying change is that chores he used to do frequently now must wait. Among them, cleaning out his garage and killing weeds on his eight acres of rolling countryside in Rio Grande, about 80 miles from the capital.

''I've worked more hours up here than probably any other job in my life,'' Evans said, hunching forward in the padded chair in his 13th floor office, his back to a desk piled high with mail.

He stays in Columbus from Tuesday through Thursday each week for committee hearings, sessions of the full House, caucus meetings and political fund-raisers.

When he returns home, he takes bills, memos and e-mail to read in between attending pancake breakfasts and potluck dinners, appearing at parades, festivals and fairs, and speaking at civic group meetings.

He admits he sometimes becomes wary of the work. Anyone would, he said.

During a House session in April, when lawmakers debated the budget bill for hours before voting on it just before midnight, Evans and most of his other colleagues both young and old closed their eyes, wiped their brows and yawned often.

Evans credits his stamina with his 30-year workout schedule, lifting weights six days a week and walking every day. He even joined a gym in Columbus to squeeze in workouts when he cannot make it home.

''I have to do that now in order to compete both physically and mentally,'' he said.



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