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Hill Climbers: Big Sky Country

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Montana has all that open space, stunning national parks and, of course, that big blue sky. So what could possibly make a person trade that setting for Washington, D.C., with its bustling pace and infamously unpleasant weather?

For two recently promoted Hill staffers, the answer lies in part with their boss, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). In May, Ty Matsdorf was promoted from press secretary to communications director and Deputy Press Secretary Carolyn Bunce was moved to press secretary. Both 27 years old, Matsdorf and Bunce each tell a story in which Baucus inspired a move from Montana to Capitol Hill.

Matsdorf obtained a degree from Rocky Mountain College in 2004 and then attended the University of Montana, where in 2006 he graduated with a master’s degree in political science. During that time, Matsdorf had an opportunity to intern in Baucus’ Montana office. This position led to his eventual hiring as deputy press secretary in February 2006.

A native Oregonian, Matsdorf spent several of his summers in high school and college either working on a Montana ranch or acting as a white-water raft guide. To this day, his interests involve “anything outdoors” — climbing, mountain biking, hiking and ice climbing. Yet Matsdorf was prompted to give up Montana’s great outdoors to work for Baucus. He attributes his involvement with Baucus to the Senator’s reputation.

“Going to college in Montana, everyone always talked about the great things Max was doing, how his staff was the best around. When the opportunity popped up to work for him, I jumped,” Matsdorf recalled.

After working as Baucus’ deputy press secretary for nearly two years, Matsdorf went on to serve in a variety of other political positions. From November 2007 to June 2008 Matsdorf worked as deputy communications director for the Baucus re-election campaign, which afforded him an opportunity to return to Montana. This position was followed by a brief stint during 2008 working for the Kentucky Democratic Party as a research and policy director.

After wrapping up his time in Kentucky upon the conclusion of the 2008 elections, Matsdorf worked for President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Committee as inaugural parade operations director. His duties included coordinating parade participants and vendors. “Even though the weather was freezing, from my vantage point the parade was even more amazing to watch,” he said.

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