WSU grad’s political passion leads to congressional job

Sheila Pursglove
Detroit Legal News

Nick Hawatmeh has been a political animal since the age of 11, when U.S. Rep. Sander Levin spoke at his school’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduation. After the graduation, and without asking permission from his parents, Hawatmeh invited the congressman over for lunch.

“We discussed the intricacies of American politics as well as the differences between Democrats and Republicans,” he says. “Not really knowing where I fell on the political spectrum, I began doing research on my own. After spending countless hours researching both sides, I came to realize that I was a Republican — and six months later, I began volunteering on Congressman Levin’s Republican opponent’s campaign.”

Actively involved since then in city, county, state and national politics, Hawatmeh is counsel at the U.S. House of Representatives’ House Administration Committee.

“My parents came to this country from Jordan, hoping they could provide a better life for their children than they had for themselves,” he explains. “They instilled in me a great pride and appreciation for the United States and taught me the importance of giving back, and from a very young age, that’s all I ever wanted to do.”

Hawatmeh, a Warren native, launched his career path by earning his undergraduate degree in political science from Wayne State University, where in addition to making the dean’s list, he was president of the Wayne State College Republicans, vice president of the Multicultural Law Student Association, and a member of the Pre-Law Student Association.

He then headed to the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

“I’ve always enjoyed advocating for those who did not necessarily have a voice,” he says. “I came to realize that politics and law have many parallels, such as representing people who come to you to fix a problem or advocate on their behalf. Law school seemed like a natural fit for me.”

At Detroit Mercy, he was active in Moot Court competitions, served as president of the International Law Society, was co-chair of the Voice for Justice Public Interest Auction, a student member of the State Bar of Michigan, an ex-officio council member for the International Law Section and a member of the Arab American and Chaldean Law Society.

“The school’s practical approach to the law, combined with its Catholic mission not only helped me to be a good lawyer, but also a good public servant,” he adds. “My professors, deans, and colleagues were among the best in their respective fields and encouraged students to think outside of the box.”

After earning his J.D., Hawatmeh spent two years as vice chairman of the Michigan Republican Party in Lansing.

“In American politics today, there are countless people in leadership positions who like to do all of the talking, but for me the most rewarding part of being a vice chairman was being able to listen,” he says. “By listening to our committed Republican grassroots activists across the state, I was able to gain several perspectives on different issues affecting the livelihood of everyday people.”

In January 2015, Hawatmeh took his current position as counsel for the Committee on House Administration. The panel, chaired by U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, has oversight of federal elections and has a hand in shaping legislation that touches on any and all aspects of federal elections. The committee also has oversight of the Library of Congress, the Botanic Gardens, and the Smithsonian Institution as well as all House officers.

“My work is stimulating and exciting,” he says. “Since it’s a speaker-appointed committee, I’ve had the honor of meeting and working for Speaker (Paul) Ryan and Speaker (John) Boehner, and the pleasure of meeting several heads of state, ambassadors, and political leaders from the United States and all over the world.

“D.C. is the place many of the country’s power brokers call home,” he adds. “There’s an air about D.C. that reminds you that you really are in the middle of where everything important happens. To be able to walk to the White House and all of the historic monuments, work at the U.S. Capitol, and meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life is amazing. There is always something to do and people to see.”

Hawatmeh was selected several years ago to be featured in the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn as one of the youngest Arab-Americans to be involved in politics.

“I’m grateful to be highlighted among several important Arab-Americans, including John Sununu, Casey Kasem, Salma Hayek, Ray LaHood and many others,” he said.