Legislative intern is state's first with Down syndrome

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
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Paull Kocher is the first legislative intern with Down syndrome.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Paul Kocher walked confidently into his new role Wednesday morning at the North Carolina General Assembly wearing a brand new blazer and carrying a briefcase.

"Paul! How are you? You ready to get started today?" asked Rep. John Bradford as he greeted the 21-year-old inside the legislative building.

Paul Kocher walking into his new post Wednesday morning.

Paul Kocher greets his new boss, Rep. John Bradford.

The House Majority Freshman Whip introduced Kocher to his colleagues as the pair toured the building.

"We're going to go through the whole legislative process. We're going to go through bill drafting. He'll go into committee with me, and my goal is to have him go wherever I go," said Bradford.

Kocher is the first legislative intern with Down syndrome, a developmental and intellectual genetic disorder.

It didn't take Paul long to take over Bradford's seat!

Bradford hand-selected the Wake Tech student for the prestigious, paid position.

Kocher's father, Kevin, touted his son's accomplishments.

"He works at Bojangles on the weekend. He has voice lessons. He works out for Special Olympics. We commonly joke in the family, if we look at the resumes of all our kids, Paul stacks up pretty good," he said with a laugh.

Kocher now has one more credential to add to his resume - honorary page.

The title gives him rare access to the floor of the House chamber and an up-close view of the voting process.

"He'll sit a couple seats behind me, and we've already made it clear thumbs up is green, thumbs down is red, so he'll help me out," Bradford smiled.

Kocher promptly began his duties Wednesday, helping his new boss address letters to constituents and stamping the envelopes with wax seals.

Paul helps Bradford address letters to constituents and stamp the envelopes with wax seals on his first day of work.

The unlikely duo are becoming fast friends.

"I asked him what his favorite fruit was and he said, 'apple pie,' " laughed Bradford. "Bingo! I love apple pie. We're going to get along great in this office!"

Who knew special duties would include feeding baby birds?

"He's a nice guy," Kocher said with a smile.

As he neared the end of his first day on the job, it became evident Kocher's new position was a perfect fit.

"We believe people with special needs should have the same opportunities as everyone else. We're excited to have him here, and we're going to put him to work," Bradford said.

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