Everyone has a routine to prepare for a new job: some like to meditate and relax, while others buy new business suits and spend hours memorizing the company’s mission statement.
The methods of preparation differed for two new staffers in the office of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, but both efforts helped them settle in with the Georgia Republican in October.
“I wanted to learn more about the district. I’m from South Carolina, so it’s very close, but it’s not the same,” said Leslie Shedd, communications director for Westmoreland. “My second week that I was here I went down to the district and ended up visiting 13 of the 15 counties. I talked with local media and met with constituents to really get a feel for what’s important.”
Senior Legislative Assistant Kevin Doran also set out to familiarize himself with his new role, but he took a more relaxed approach from within the confines of his D.C. office.
“Working in a lobbying firm, our recess was busier than session,” Doran said. “I came here the Thursday before the election, and for the first time in a long time, I had a chance to catch up on reading things like Roll Call, Politico and everyday Hill information. I also read a lot of the mail coming in and out of the Congressman’s office and started to learn the nuances of how it operates.”
At first glance, the 31-year-olds seem like total opposites. Shedd hails from South Carolina, while Doran is originally from the south side of Chicago. Shedd works with the press, whereas Doran works with legislation. Shedd has been working in the public sphere, but Doran just came from the private sector.
One thing they have in common, however, is that neither ever expected to wind up on Capitol Hill.
“I wanted to be a vet my entire young life,” Shedd said. “But my senior year of high school, my mother and my allergist had a conference call with me and explained I’m highly allergic to cats, hay and being outdoors, and that I can’t be a vet.”
Doran said, “In college, I was undecided at first. Nothing really piqued my interest. But I was dating a girl who came up here to intern. I visited and just fell in love with the place.”
After coming to terms with her crushed veterinarian dreams, Shedd decided to pursue something completely different and earned a bachelor’s in political science from Clemson University in 2001. In 2007, she received her law degree from the University of the District of Columbia, although she never planned to practice law.
“Maybe if I ever got sick of politics, I would go into tax law, which always interested me. My pocket protector is missing right now,” Shedd said with a laugh. “But when I moved up here to go to law school, my sole intention was to get my footing on the Hill.”
After being in D.C. for six years, the communications director has gotten more than just her footing on the Hill; she seems to have climbed the entire mountain. Shedd has held internships with Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), the House Ways and Means Committee and the Office of the Vice President in the White House. In 2008, she served as deputy press secretary for Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and until recently was communications director for Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.).
Doran also has extensive political experience under his belt, but not all of it stems from the Hill. The University of Dayton alumnus took an administrative assistant gig with Rotary International in Evanston, Ill., before he worked as staff assistant for Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), although he moved to D.C. before he officially nabbed the job.
“I packed up my aunt’s minivan, drove here and moved in with a buddy of mine,” Doran said. “I got the job a month later and waited tables in the interim.”
Two years later, Doran moved to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia. After two more years, he shifted to the private sector and worked for lobbying firm Holland & Knight as a public affairs adviser.
From the time Shedd and Doran started working for the Congressman, they have worked on committee, legislative and room reassignments but are also getting acclimated to working for the majority.
“Two years ago, as a Republican, it looked like all hope was lost. Then two years later, it shifted dramatically, and it’s such an exciting time,” Doran said. “I thought If I’m going to make a switch back to the public sector, now is the time to do it.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.