Rebecca Fricke of Amherst new district aide for state Rep. Ellen Story
Being a legislator often means dividing time between the communities served and the Statehouse.
While state Rep. Ellen Story, who represents Amherst, Pelham and a portion of Granby, is in Boston working on legislation, she depends on a district aide to be her eyes and ears back home.
Rebecca Fricke took on that role in January. She is spending some 20 hours each week making sure that Story is aware of what’s on the minds of people living in the three towns and other happenings throughout the region.
“Ellen relies on me to be very proactive, going to meetings when she can’t attend, setting up meetings and doing research on topics,” Fricke said.
She replaces Jan Klausner-Wise, who is retiring after holding the job for 20 years.
Since 2007, Fricke, 44, had been part of Story’s “kitchen cabinet,” a forum where local women and Story trade information and insights. Prior to taking the new job, Fricke was president of the League of Women Voters for 18 months and on its board for seven years.
She and her husband,Thomas Fricke, a social studies teacher at Amherst Regional High School, have two daughters, Augusta and Ina. Fricke first met Story in 2002 when the legislator sent her a self-described fan note shortly after Fricke won a fiction-writing contest sponsored by Hampshire Life magazine.
Fricke said her experience as a waitress and then teaching in Chicago, Amherst and at an American school in Honduras, prepared her well for being district aide.
“It’s tremendous variety,” she said. “It’s what I love about the job.”
Fricke said she will take notes at meetings and events and pick up materials to help keep Story informed. She said she will also pursue her own initiatives that she believes will help Story in her work, such as going to the Franklin Hampshire Career Center in Northampton to get more information about unemployment and the jobs available.
Fricke, who was appointed to Amherst’s Agricultural Commission in mid February, has a background in agricultural economics and sees more opportunities for agricultural development.
“There’s a lot of potential for that in our district. I’ll be talking to farmers about what we need to work on,” Fricke said.
Fricke is also a part-time administrative assistant in the biochemistry and molecular biology department at UMass as well as an art quilter.
She has put together contents for a new website for Story, at www.ellenstoryma.com. It includes constituent services and aide information, a list of bills sponsored by Story, as well as biographical information and articles about her.
Fricke said Story is a strong advocate for women and families, pointing to her work on postpartum depression and efforts to diagnose, treat and eliminate the stigma attached to it.
She said she enjoys politics and the chance her new job gives her to develop insights into government. “This allows me to see how much work is happening that I never see as a citizen,” Fricke said.