Deputy Minister for Everything
Getting to Know Europeians - Astrellan
An interview with Astrellan, former second minister
Written by Forilian
In an effort to let everyday Europeians know more about their fellow citizens, Getting to Know Europeians is an interview project that asks Europeians casual questions about themselves. This is the seventh issue of this project, and the second-to-last issue of this project. Thank you for reading these so far! You can read our previous interviews with Hezekon, Kuramia, Lloenflys, Maowi, Prim, and Istillian by clicking on the links if you've missed them.
Astrellan, former second minister, minister of integration, minister of communications, and a multi-term senator, joined the region only a year and a half ago. Like many of our members, he found NationStates (NS) originally on recommendation from someone in his life. However, the someone in this case was Astrellan's twin brother, Siphonic. According to Astrellan, he discovered NS by watching his brother play it, and found the game "immensely interesting." He decided to start playing in August 2018, and joined Europeia, the region that Siphonic was in at the time. However, Astrellan's application for citizenship was denied due to sharing an IP address with his twin brother, also a citizen at the time. This led to him leaving NS for half a year; by the time he re-joined NationStates in March 2019, his twin brother had lost his citizenship, which allowed him to finally gain Europeian citizenship.
After gaining citizenship, Astrellan joined the only institution that interested him at the time, the Citizen's Assembly (CA). "[The CA] was the first institution I joined and I immediately took part in the Find a Flaw contest they had going on, and familiarised myself with Winged Bear, who was Chair at the time, and DAX, who replaced him." He also joined the Ministry of Communications later on, when recombis, an early friend that Astrellan made in the region, "pushed [him] with two hands" into the ministry.
"That's how my initial push started -- I did some work in the CA and advised the Chair, building up my Legislative background, and I dove deep into Comms with my good friend Hez[ekon]. I'm sure there's some background on his own interview, but to put it short, with the absence of a Minister or DM in the ministry, myself and Hez ended up being the powerhouse of the ministry towards the end of the first FM term with Rand, a feat which we both earned Sapphire Stars for."
After four months in the region, he was made minister for integration by First Minister Pichtonia. "Leading up to this appointment, I was actually the SDM of Integration under Cool Spring in Interior. When Pichto decided to split Interior to give integration a greater focus, he found it a good opportunity to put some new blood on the cabinet (a theme he held throughout the term).
"It was surprisingly pretty hard for a small ministry. I had to set my own goals, specifically scout out people because integration was understaffed anyway, and ended up having to minimanage quite a few of them, simply because they wouldn't get any work on their own. It was pretty stressful and I learnt that running a ministry can be a very hard job if you have to compensate for last term as well.
"The work mainly focused on passive and active resources. I did a big informational revamp for the handbook, because, multiple terms in, it still had no information on the executive split, which was absolutely unacceptable. I did direct contact via forums (maybe similar to forums buddies), worked on discord buddies, and learned, through both approaches, that direct contact rarely yields results. It was very surprising for me, because direct contact from my buddy actually helped me in Euro, but I guess that's just how things work in Euro."
However, only a month into the term, Astrellan was suddenly thrust into the role of second minister after Whitmark resigned from the position. Astrellan says that at the time it "actually shook me quite a lot; I thought he would bring someone else in for the spot, and never assumed Pichto would trust me with such a role." However, he "was surprised, honoured, but most of all, excited" about the appointment, increased by the fact that Pichtonia was Astrellan's role model at the time.
"I was excited about the opportunity to work with him, and definitely excited about what I could learn from it. I have never been DFM/SM for anyone else, so I am unsure of how the dynamic looks for other people, but I often found myself having lengthy and rewarding discussions with Pichto about executive policy going forward. Not going to drop all the secrets, but it was incredibly useful for a newcomer like me. Moreover, over the almost-two terms we had, I had the chance to fill in for Pichto when he was on LoA, so I learnt about directing the Cabinet, checking up on people's work and responsibilities, and generally found a directing style I enjoy; provide some base, essential direction, finer details if asked for, but largely let your ministers work freely, still keeping an eye on them of course. It allows people to bring out their own creativity and ideas to the table, while also offering support for perhaps newer ministers who might have use of it."
While the resignation eventually led to a series of events that led to Whitmark's banning from the region, Astrellan says that he does not regret taking on the role of second minister; however, he did feel more pressure from Whitmark's actions, which "wasn't helpful in an invisible and light role," but from the start Astrellan "could tell that these responses were beyond the pale, so [he] never faulted [himself] for such an incredibly exaggerated response from Whitmark."
"I spoke about this a bit after the incident, but it was in discord so it's not really "recorded." Whitmark is the whole reason I started to rise up the ranks in Europeia anyway. He got me my first DM position and, when I was too nervous to run in elections, he kept pushing me on by saying that "people up there want to see you succeed and do well." When I had issues in my first election, he was the person to offer advice on what to fix next time. He was, in reality, a friend. So, I was more than a little [annoyed]. Though there was a direct incident between us, I just really felt for Pichto. Whitmark literally hounded him, even after it had come out that Whitmark was the anonymous commenter. I think Pichto handled it incredibly well though, and I'm glad it's a situation we can look back and laugh at."
In addition to his work in the executive branch, Astrellan also simultaneously served three terms as senator. While his first term "didn't start off too well," as in the 5-person Senate "there was a lot of division on topics like Foreign Affiliation Disclosures, and whatever else was brought to the table. There was a lot of backroom politics, which I was not expecting initially, but gradually became used to over my Senate terms, it ended up being one of the most valuable positions for me."
"I came into Europeia not knowing the foggiest thing about legislation or law, and serving in the Senate taught me a lot about both. I like to think I'm pretty good with legislation writing now, and I owe all of that to my colleagues in the Senate who helped me learn. Apart from the purely skills department, it also taught me about mindsets. I came in to my first Senate wanting to be completely reasonable and ended up being part fickle instead, not really "having a spine" as was pointed out to me. By the dawn of my last term, I felt I had the right balance of being open to being persuaded or informed, while also standing my ground on issues I cared deeply about, like my pushes to abolish the CA (the irony!!), or my... less popular stances."
After six months of relative inactivity, Astrellan came back to lead the ministry of communications. Astrellan says that it was a perfect position for him, and he was absolutely in love with the position. This was due to two reasons: the first was the fact that it was for an abbreviated term, so he "wouldn't find [himself] strained by the position after [his] burnout break," and that the position was in the ministry he was most passionate about. The position of minister of communications was also one that Astrellan has wanted to try for a long time, so he was "very, very pumped when McEntire came to [him] almost out of the blue." In terms of what he did for the term, Astrellan summarised it as:
"I did lots of work helping to pump out articles, get some finer, more informative pieces done, and had the help of some amazing DMs for the dispatch system. Ultimately, I see it as a strong way to end the exec split in the Comms ministry."
As to what he wants to do in the future in the region, Astrellan is not sure. While "[he wants] to continue to serve the region, whether in the Cabinet, the Senate, or elsewhere," he does not have a particular role he wants to aim for. He also adds that he wants to do some more "base" work, such as writing articles for the ministry of communications or working in the ministry of foreign affairs.
In terms of advice to newcomers, Astrellan has the following words:
"Find what's right for you in the region and do as much as you are comfortable with. Whether it's a certain ministry, the Legislature, or something else, if you consistently apply yourself, you'll easily find yourself with a reputation. Make sure to check yourself though; burnout absolutely sucks. And as always, I am here if anyone needs advice or has any questions."
Thank you, Siph. You are one of the region's hardest workers, and an example to all Europeians. Give it up for Astrellan!