Jennifer Mann: The Transition I Never Took

Only a few months have passed since I left office as a state representative—a position I held for fourteen years. I entered the Pennsylvania House of Representatives an entrepreneur, having started my first business at the age of 25, and gained a reputation during my tenure as a business-friendly legislator. During the last few years of serving my district, an inner voice increasingly grew louder, calling me back to the private sector and to new challenges.

Without missing a beat, I launched a consulting firm immediately after leaving office.  I never really gave myself an opportunity to enjoy a transition period in which I could reflect upon the past 14 years with the exception of a brief moment of an awkward feeling in not seeing my name on the ballot. And so, for the most part, my transition happened. No fanfare and no deep thoughts of reflection,

My new reality began to hit home immediately upon showing up to work—alone. Although I never took for granted the dedicated staffers who worked for me, and I did realize just how dependent I was on them, I just didn’t know how hard it would be to maintain the level of activity without them, until I was out on my own. Most of all, I miss their presence. The past presidential election brought some pretty bad jokes about empty chairs, but now when I walk into my office, it’s me, myself, and I, and…that empty chair in the corner. I miss the smiles and the chatter and the interoffice banter (It still happens some today, but by email and it’s not the same).

Fortunately, my new business involves a lot of face time with clients, prospective clients and those my clients would like to do business with.  I am by the nature of my work in the company of others daily. But now, I am solely responsible for the scheduling of meetings, for the execution for each item on the to-do lists I bring out of meetings, and for the meticulous follow up I am known for. No more delegation. As a state representative, 90 percent of my to-do list would be carried out by my reliable team. Now, it’s me, myself and I…and that empty chair.

Jennifer_MannBut I still enjoy a touch of public life in some regards. I remain active with local charities, nonprofits, and serve on boards making speeches, shaking hands, and conversing with colleagues about political hot topics. Though I enjoy remaining connected in that way, I have to consciously draw the line and remind myself where to stop.

For example, the Washington Bureau writer of my city newspaper recently asked me to share my thoughts about a poll concerning next year’s gubernatorial election.  Instinctively, I began to formulate a response. But then after thinking the matter through for a few moments, I decided to decline. Although I felt honored that a reporter approached me for a quote even though he was aware I left office, the torch has been passed and it is time to let others weigh in.

That is not to say I will no longer make comment concerning issues involving state government. As a state representative, I sponsored legislation to protect children against sexual predators and widen law enforcement’s net in capturing those who harm them. Protecting our children from predators is an issue dear to my heart and I will gladly lend my voice to protecting those young ones.

Life changed substantially since I left office. I do not regret my decision to return to the private sector and I remain excited by the prospects ahead. The transition I never took is moving full speed ahead on its own, as it will for any of us who have served our constituents over time. I look forward to sharing with you in the months ahead my reflections of that journey.


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