Eye opening: My time shadowing Sen. Ryan Gatti

Hannah Brewster shadowed Louisiana Senator Ryan Gatti during her spring break. Online photo.

Hannah Brewster shadowed Louisiana Senator Ryan Gatti during her spring break. Online photo.

The writer was assigned to write a first-person story in a reporting class over something they did this semester. The stories are written in first-person and in their own words.

In a small corner of the world in Bossier City, LA, a newly-elected senator, husband, father, Sunday school class leader, lawyer and Fellowship of Christian Athletes mentor is using a seemingly-ordinary life to make extraordinary change.

During spring break this year, while friends were curled up fast asleep until afternoon or lounging by ocean waves, I was up at the wee hours of early morning driving through gray drizzle to the office of Senator Ryan Gatti.

I nervously walked into the office complex, unusually large for just one senator and filled with paralegals and secretaries bouncing throughout the office, filing paperwork, making phone calls and brewing coffee.

Gatti’s personal assistant, Robin, led me back to her office as I waited for Gatti to return from a breakfast meeting for National Women’s Month in downtown Shreveport. Robin informed me she was truly the worker between the two, and after listening to her list her duties, I can certainly agree.

Gatti, like most senators, does not fill out his calendar himself. Rather, Robin keeps a detailed calendar for each month in her office and on a computer document they share. As Gatti’s assistant, Robin also schedules events and meetings, and files Gatti’s proposed bills. Perhaps the most important duty Robin holds is making calls each week to local officials such as school board representatives, to ask if there are any suggestions they would like to make.

After about half an hour of speaking with Robin, a short, rosy-cheeked man strolled through the door dressed in a full suit complete with shined shoes and a sleek, silk tie.

Gatti remarked I must be his shadow for the day.

I laughed and followed him into a large conference room. Gatti explained this room is where they held various meetings late into the night during the week. The senator sipped on a cup of coffee and after a few courtesy questions towards me, began to tell me about the road towards becoming a senator, his faith and how the two were intertwined.

Gatti is a graduate of Louisiana State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in three years, and was accepted into the university’s law program. After taking a gap year to refocus, the now-senator took his seat in the classroom once more. Upon receiving his law degree, Gatti moved back to his hometown of Bossier City to begin his practice.

The senator has been married to his wife, Susan Gatti, for more than nineteen years, and the couple has four daughters — Katherine, Elizabeth, Rebecca and Charlotte.

Ryan paused after naming his daughters and a serious look came over his face. He explained when he began practicing law, he never wanted to deal with personal injury cases because they were “too messy.” Then came Rebecca.

During Rebecca’s delivery, the doctor injected Susan with too much epidural. Rebecca suffered permanent brain damage in which her brain immediately ceased growing. The doctor noticed his mistake and urged the parents to abort because Rebecca would never have a normal life.

The Gatti’s refused.

After the malpractice involving Rebecca, Ryan said he realized there were hundreds and thousands of people who experienced grief like this each day. Because he had the ability to fight for justice as a lawyer, he was compelled to accept personal-injury cases. Ryan said this conviction came from his faith in God.

Ryan said his faith is at the root of all he does, whether it’s leading as a senator, filling the roles of husband and father, teaching Sunday school class at Cypress Baptist Church, serving as a lawyer or speaking to the FCA at local schools.

The senator began to open up about his walk with God. He told me we need more individuals serving in governmental positions who seek to honor God, which is what inspired him to run for senator. According to Ryan, his faith played a major role in his 2017 proposed bills.

Ryan pulled out a few sheets of paper with his proposed bills. He explained odd-numbered years, such as 2017, are primarily “money” years, so he can only propose five bills not involving financial circumstances.

At the top of his proposed bills were to ban open burning of munitions and waste explosives and to add prostate and testicular cancer as an occupational disease or infirmity connected with the duties of a firefighter.

Throughout the remainder of the day, Ryan informed me about the specific duties of each day, the difficulties of working in Louisiana’s financial crisis and the joys of serving constituents.

As the day came to a close, I thanked Ryan for sacrificing his time as well as the knowledge he imparted to me. The senator smiled, “Anytime.”

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