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The Policymakers

Marshall Marrs (BA ’22, MPP ’22)

“Once someone has made a decision, policy is how the rubber hits the road,” says Marshall Marrs (BA’22, MPP ’22), who serves as chief of staff and senior policy advisor for Colorado House District 46 Rep. Tisha Mauro. 

But when he arrived on campus as a first year, Marrs was intent on mastering a different side of politics: the election. “At the time, I was pretty serious about politics and political science. I wanted to work on campaigns. I thought that was the best part of the enterprise of electoral government. That’s when you get to travel, and you give speeches, and you meet celebrities and talk to people,” Marrs says. “And it was through somewhat of a chance encounter that I ended up on a different path.”

That chance encounter came amidst the bustling crowd of freshman registering for their first quarter of classes. “I am somewhat famously very colorblind,” Marrs says. And when he went to wait in the line for political science majors, he says, the color-coded signs were no help.

“One of the lines—I think the blue line—led to the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. That was home to political science. Then a purple line led to the Korbel School of International Studies, which is home to public policy. I looked up and saw that one line was really long, and one line was really short,” he says. “I took my chances on the short line, and I ended up at the Korbel table, where I met an academic advisor, Debbie Gaylinn, who would go on to be my favorite person at DU.” She recommended Marrs take one class in Korbel: Hard Choices in Public Policy. And with a gap in his schedule, he signed up. 

After diving into the big questions surrounding government and policy in class, Marrs was hooked. “It was so compelling that when I left that class on the first day, I went back to my advisor and said, ‘I want to be a double major in political science and public policy,’” he says. “It changed my life.” 

Marrs went on to take advantage of the University’s interconnected departments and quarter system scheduling, completing a double major and then a master’s in public policy in four years, before diving into a career as a policy expert. Though efficient, condensing his undergraduate and graduate studies into a standard four-year schedule was not without its stresses. Looking back, Marrs says, “If I were talking to a 17-year-old me, I would tell him to slow down a little bit and to get out in Denver and to enjoy the location.”

Marrs first found himself working in the mail room of then-recently elected Governor Jared Polis, before moving up to the State House, where he started working on policy directly. He went on to work in the offices of a U.S. senator and four state legislators before landing his current role as policy advisor and chief of staff for Rep. Mauro. 

In his current role, Marrs balances his chief of staff duties—correspondence with elected officials, scheduling, strategy and policy analysis—and his responsibilities as an advisor, tracking bills and, most of all, drafting legislation—”which is probably the most impactful and rewarding part,” he says. 

All said, it keeps Marrs plenty busy. “When we are in session, that is what I live, eat, sleep, breathe and everything in between,” he says. But spending every day diving into his passions makes it worthwhile. “I’m lucky enough that the work that I do is also stuff that I enjoy,” he says. “At least in a democracy, the power of government is derived from the people, and it’s majestic to be on the ground level and see that.”

Looking ahead, Marrs says he wants to continue working in the world of public policy. “It’s a big state, there are a lot of people, it’s very diverse and there are a lot of issues, so I would love to be able to drill down and get a little more specific on a couple of issues,” he says. “And I’m not ruling out going back to school.”

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