When you have a seat on the Dallas City Council, you see some pretty wild stuff, but East Dallas’ District 9 Councilman Mark Clayton has worked somewhere even more exotic.
During college, he found himself in St. Louis, Mo., for the summer after his parents moved there. Needing something to do during the long summer days, he set his sights on landing a gig at the St. Louis Zoo.
Day after day, he showed up to ask for an internship, and day after day he was shot down. But he kept at it, and his tenacity eventually paid off.
“I basically got a job there through persistence,” he says.
His day-to-day operations at the zoo were pretty boring. “I basically just told people where the bathroom was.”
That left him with plenty of on-the-job free time. He ended up absorbing more than 40 books that summer, mostly at the zoo.
“I became very well read that summer,” Clayton jokes.
“Looking back it wasn’t that bad. If you have a nine-hour day and you work really hard during three of those hours then you’ve got six where you can kind of take it easy.”
It was certainly better work than one of his previous after-school jobs.
For a while he sold newspaper subscriptions door-to-door.
The job involved being picked up after school by a stranger, dropped off in some unknown neighborhood and walking around for roughly four hours until he made his way home.
He did that for three months before calling it quits.
“That was definitely my worst job,” he says. “It made me realize I needed an education.”
The zoo job, by comparison, had major perks.
“I got to go behind the scenes. I got to see what animals were being brought in. I got to see an elephant being born. It’s not the most brainpower I’ve ever used for a job, but it was still a good experience.”
At the time, Clayton says, the St. Louis Zoo consistently was listed as one of the top in the country. The work being done at the zoo, and the way the staff went about it, gave him a different perspective.
“Everybody was always just in a good mood. The people there could have made a lot of money working in another job,” he remembers. Clayton says the experience gave him the desire for a job where money wasn’t everything.
Now he’s on city council. Go figure.
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