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The Newcomers: Keeping to a Budget

It wasn’t long after she started her new job that Cheri Reidy was tackling what will likely be one of her most daunting tasks this year.

“My second week on the job was the week that we were on the floor with the budget,” she said.

Reidy is the new staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, and she worked quickly to get into the swing of the new position and tackle the office’s duties. She worked closely with the staff to divvy up the work and get down to it.

“We looked at the tasks that we had to do and just plowed through,” she said. “It’s as hectic as all get-out, but everything turned out OK.”

It probably helped that Reidy wasn’t exactly new to the office, or to economic affairs. She graduated from the University of Rochester with a master’s in public policy analysis in 1981 and headed to Washington, D.C., to work at the American Enterprise Institute. After a brief stint researching federal budget and tax policy at the think tank, she left to become a junior economist at the Budget Committee in 1982.

Reidy’s work originally focused on domestic economic indicators, but she soon expanded her skill set and took on more responsibilities. During the next 27 years, she learned the ins and outs of the budget process, experience that surely came in handy as she led the staff this year. Before ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) asked her to become staff director, she was director of revenues and budget review.

Her climb through different roles is “pretty much a natural progression” for someone who has spent many years with the committee, she said.

Even with a solid understanding of the budget process and the inner workings of the office, the staff director job was a leap for Reidy. “I wasn’t real confident,” she said. “I hadn’t done management of a big staff before.”

One thing that must have been reassuring in those early days was knowing that she had a solid staff working with her.

Everyone working with the committee is well-versed in what needs to be done regularly, Reidy said, so things kept running efficiently even during her transition. Working for a director who thinks highly of her staff doesn’t hurt morale, either.

“It’s the best collection of professional people on the Hill,” Reidy said. “I have the highest praise for everyone that works here.”

Having been with the same office for nearly 30 years, Reidy has seen some major shifts in how things are done. The most noteworthy change, she said, is the technology.

“In the early years, we only had calculators and typewriters. We didn’t have computers and spreadsheets,” she recalled.

It’s probably difficult for most staffers to consider working without blogs, live video feeds and immediate access to information about the goings-on in Washington. Reidy, however, was there when Congress wasn’t so technologically savvy.

“Believe it or not, there wasn’t even TV here in the Senate. You could hear it on a radio, but you had to guess who was speaking by their voice,” she said.

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