Sitting at her new desk in the Hart Senate Office Building, Rachel Weaver doesn’t look like a nerd: summer dress, designer glasses, shawl casually thrown over her shoulders to battle the air-conditioned cold.
Then she mentions the years she spent in Model United Nations, and you realize something.
Weaver, the new staff director for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, works on the Hill for a reason.
The 31-year-old Sacramento, Calif., native has always had grand ambitions. As a child, she dreamed of becoming the first female president. And if she couldn’t do that, the former high school and college basketball player was going to be the first woman who could dunk.
During her college years, she considered becoming a missionary.
But her dad nailed it: “He always said I’d end up in politics.”
Her interest in government first started while she was attending California State University, Dominguez Hills. Around the time that she needed to declare her major, she also started participating in Model UN.
She describes the experience as “kind of dorky,” but as she got together with the “smart kids” and represented the interests of countries like Mexico in debates, she felt inspired (later on she would mentor students in the program). That drove her to declare a major in government with an emphasis on international affairs.
After transferring and graduating from Sacramento State University, she knew she wanted to go to graduate school. The Sept. 11 attacks led her to study security policy.
But Weaver’s heart wasn’t set on moving to Washington, D.C.
Several programs told her, “We’re not in D.C., but we offer ...” After hearing that line repeated again and again, she decided she may as well move to D.C. after she was accepted to George Washington University.
Weaver paired working on her master’s with working as a legislative assistant in the office of Rep. Dan Lungren (R), whose district office she volunteered with while she lived in California.
Lungren eventually brought her over to work for the House Homeland Security Committee.
“I was really lucky because I was actually able to work on the committee and be able to work for what I was going to school for,” she said.
Weaver then ran Lungren’s re-election campaign in 2006. When the GOP lost the majority, an old professor contacted her and told her about an opportunity to work as the director of the White House Homeland Security Council. She jumped at the chance.
Weaver left that position to work for the private sector, first at the major defense firm BAE Systems and then as the vice president of government affairs at a smaller homeland security technology company.
She returned to the Hill as the lead investigator of the oversight and investigations office, part of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She recently switched over to work under Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) as the new subcommittee staff director.
She described her private-sector work as having shorter hours and better pay. So why return to the Hill?
“It’s really nice to be able to work with people toward a common good, where people have a sense of purpose,” she said.
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