Working in Rep. Jim Hansen's office during the session, Jake Peak gets to see the legislative process and handle a variety of constituent services for Hansen.

In time of political turmoil, gridlock in Washington, controversy around the Missouri State Capitol and a cynical public, here’s a good news story on what may be the future of leadership in the Show-Me State.

Jake Peak, 20, loves politics and wants to make a difference. He is trying to learn more about how government operates each day.

And he is getting an up-close view and experience of representative democracy during the 2018 session of the Missouri Legislature.

The University of Missouri junior, who graduated from Paris High School in 2015, is working an internship for college credit this semester as an intern for Missouri Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Frankfort).

Working in Hansen’s office during the session, Peak gets to see the legislative process and handle a variety of constituent services for Hansen. He helps deal with volumes of mail, sending birthday cards and greeting office visitors, ranging from people in the district to advocacy groups for various to lobbyists.

For the political science major, it is a great experience.

“Since I was younger and especially today, it seems that the news is nothing but politics, so it is important,” he said. “I learned about this internship program where you get credit and I applied.”.

To get credit for the internship, Peak is mandated to write four papers for his professor, reporting on his experiences.

Hansen says that Peak is doing a great job.

“It is a real privilege to have Jake Peak interning in my office during this year’s legislative session,” he said. “Jake, being from Monroe County, brings with him a background and point of view that is unique and valuable to the 40th District. Jake is an impressive young man with a good head on his shoulders and a bright future ahead of him. I look forward to working with him and my staff as we continue to serve the 40th District in the great state of Missouri.”

The internship is also teaching Peak a lesson in diplomacy. He had learned how to deal with testy phone calls to the representative.

“You tell them thank you for their views,” he said, while not indicating disagreement with the view.

Peak is a member of Army ROTC at Missouri, and hopes to become a military police officer in the Army reserve while pursuing a career in law enforcement.

Peak says his interests on the body politic started as early as the election cycle of 2008, when then Sen. Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain for the presidency, and by the 2012 election cycle, when President Obama defeated Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for re-election, he was hooked on studying politics.

He credits his high school government teach, Chris Willingham, who is now the principal of Paris High School, with helping develop his understanding of government.

“In his classes, Coach Willingham encouraged wide-ranging discussions, and even when we disagreed, he encouraged the discussions. That’s the way I like to learn,” Peak said. “I don’t agree with a lot of people on things and do not agree with anyone on a lot of things. I get really detailed on my positions and why something needs to get done, and not just from an emotional standpoint.”

Willingham said that Peak was a quiet student, until he found a subject that spurred his interests.

“Jake was mostly quiet, thoughtful, opinionated, and intelligent. I say mostly quiet, because he was just that, unless a subject or discussion was thought provoking to him,” Willingham said. “Quiet may not be the word, more like calculated. I always felt like he was engaged and thinking about all the discussion we had in class and deciding when to speak and when to listen…valuable skills for a person wanting a career in politics. Jake was fun to have in class, because when he said something, everyone knew it was going to be worthwhile and worth a listen. We had some very good debates/discussions in class and I really appreciated his candor and maturity.”

Meanwhile, Willingham said that no one around Paris High School is surprised at the direction Peak is taking.

“We are all very proud of Jake and his accomplishments. He is a talented young man who represents that best of our school and our community,” he said. “Jake was never shy about talking about his career aspirations. Again, very mature for his age, but Jake had plans very early on to attend Mizzou and go through the ROTC program with the intent to pursue a career in politics. I am not at all surprised by Jake’s successes or how quickly he is attaining some of his goals. Jake was always goal-oriented and driven. I believe that if Jake sets his mind to something no one should be surprised when he attains that goal. We joked in class from time to time to time that he would be back one day asking for votes from faculty and staff.”

Halfway through his internship, Peak was asked for his biggest disappointment has been to date.

“The Senate is my biggest disappointment,” he flatly said. “I go over the Senate and listen to them tell stories without getting anything accomplished.”