Wes Brooks a legislative assistant for U.S. representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen


Wes Brooks is a legislative assistant for U.S. representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, an experience that benefits from the fellowship program he pursued through the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers–New Brunswick.

courtesy Wes Brooks

Politics shaped Wes Brooks’s life decades before his birth: his mother, at age 7, fled the Cuban Revolution, flying unaccompanied to Florida with two younger brothers in tow after airport officials temporarily detained Brooks’s grandmother.

The South Florida of the 1990s, Brooks’s formative years, was a highly political place, where future governor Jeb Bush dominated the Republican Party. Miami-Dade County “is made  up of very different people from all over the country and all over the world,” says Brooks GSNB’13.  “Politics is ingrained in the blood of the community.”

Although he always loved the natural world—he fished in the Everglades with his father and, during childhood baseball games, hunted for bugs in the outfield—Brooks knew long before he started Rutgers’ Ph.D. program in ecology and evolution that he wanted a government career. 

That conviction only solidified after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which Brooks first heard about in the student center at Duke University as he grabbed breakfast on his way to an undergraduate class in international relations. “I’ve been shaped in large part by that—and how it’s all played out since,” he says.

Today, Brooks is pursuing his  passion for politics as a legislative  assistant for U.S. representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican, Florida’s 27th District), a longtime congresswoman who represents large parts of Miami-Dade County. Eventually, Brooks hopes to return home to South Florida with his wife, Megan Anderson Brooks GSNB’14, and run for office himself.

At Rutgers, Brooks cultivated his interest in government even as he pursued his science doctorate. He earned a certificate in politics through the Eagleton Institute’s fellowship program for graduate students, spending a semester interning at the Environmental Protection Agency. In his current job, Brooks says, he draws on what he learned by interacting with Eagleton fellows from many disciplines: “To be able to listen to all sides of any debate—and not just to listen, but to appreciate what other people are saying and why it matters.”

Brooks has never visited his mother’s native country, and as long as the Castro government remains in place, he says, he never will. Like his Cuban-American relatives, Brooks is anxiously watching the relationship between the governments of the United States and Cuba, now that formal diplomatic relations have been reestablished.

“It’s tough for us to see almost a rewarding of the Castro brothers for everything that they’ve done over 50 years,” Brooks says. “We’re concerned that the current deal undermines the thing that we care most about: a free and democratic Cuba.”