Our inbox is never at zero. It can be a pretty daunting task and it can be hard to hit every day, he said. I understand the amount of work they have, and they still have a smile on their faces.
McElwee said its the thank you notes and phone calls from constituents that keep him and his staff going. For instance, he recently received an appreciative call from a constituent from the district who was able to fend off a mortgage lender after a staffer in Pennsylvania helped him get the paperwork he needed. It doesnt get any better than that, he said. Thats the part that shows who the staff is.
Hiring staff members can be a lengthy process. McElwee likes candidates to meet not only with him and Dent, but also with the lower-level staffers.
I try to go through multiple interviews on the staff level. Its important to have some of the junior staff involved so I can get their input, he said.
McElwee seems to have made good choices in the past. After all, five of his employees are first-generation Dent staffers who have stayed on since his taking office in 2005. Though he spends most of his time with the D.C. staff, McElwee is quick to praise those who work in the district.
Just as vital is the staff in Pennsylvania, he added. Sometimes theyre not thanked as often as they should be.
Keeping district and Washington staff on the same page can be a bit tricky, but McElwee has found a way to manage. I have weekly staff meetings with the D.C. staff and we have the Pennsylvania staff on through conference call, he said. This is a time for both staffs to share their experiences and ideas. He said it is particularly helpful when Pennsylvania staffers share stories about the casework they are dealing with so that the D.C. staffers understand what is important to constituents.
While synergy between the offices is important, McElwee also places a high value on professional growth. He often tells his staff to advance until challenged and encourages his subordinates to take classes and pursue higher degrees. Two members of the staff recently began graduate classes at the Naval War College, and another completed law school at Georgetown University.
I stand in awe of not only their dedication and loyalty to the office, but their enthusiasm in advancing their education, McElwee said.
This support from their boss may be the reason some staffers stick around for so long.
I want them to feel free to initiate different programs or ideas that they have on how the office can better serve the constituents, he said. I dont want anyone on staff to think they cant do something,
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.