Behind the Scenes: Getting good press for lawmakers can lead to some long days at the Capitol

Author: Dan Njegomir - August 29, 2017 - Updated: August 31, 2017

House GOP Communications Director Joel Malecka. (Photo courtesy of House GOP)

He’s in the middle of all the action when the legislature is in session. Yet, you might not even notice him as he pounds out press releases at his desk or confers with lawmakers on the floor of the Colorado state House. After all, his job isn’t to get noticed but to make sure others do — notably, the members of the Republican House minority.

Joel Malecka has been at it for four years now as House GOP communications director. He enjoys the job and isn’t prone to complaining, but when pressed, he’ll admit to putting in  some marathon hours.

The longest day he’s ever pulled: “The longest day is usually the budget, and I have seen the clock roll past 2 a.m. more than a few times. But … the day time moved the slowest — that was Sine Die in 2014. We had wrapped up our business and were waiting to gavel out and retreat to the end-of-session party down the street at about 2 p.m. We just had to get through tributes for the departing members. Tributes are where after 120 days of talking, members still feel compelled to speak at length about how much they love each other and are going to miss working together. If I recall there were about 17 tributes. For each one, nearly every member went down to the well and said the same thing for 10 minutes as the last person, literally for each person departing. We staffers sat through almost nine hours of tributes. All the enthusiasm to go celebrate the last day was snuffed out …”

What drew him to the job: “I am a pretty extroverted guy, and while communications wasn’t necessarily my formal background, it was central to everything I had done prior. And I really saw this job as the opportunity of a lifetime, to be able to work at the State Capitol with the elected officials.”

Relations between the two parties: “I think the seemingly endless coverage of partisan politics overshadows the reality that the legislators work together the vast majority of the time. I have found that while the two sides of the aisle may disagree on specific policy, they all want to make Colorado a great place to live, work and raise a family. I try to make that point as often as possible in conversations about politics to counteract the perception that all elected officials do is fight with each other.”

The biggest challenge in dealing with the press: “Learning how each reporter covers the legislature and their different styles of reporting. I have found that the press coverage is pretty fair and balanced in Colorado. I have made it a point to get to know the Capitol press corps and break down some of the preconceived notions any members have about working with the press.”

What he hopes to be doing 30 years from now: “…Hopefully my wife and I are near a beach with full scuba tanks, some clear blue water and cocktails waiting back home.”

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.