She’s that voice carrying down the seventh floor hallway of the Longworth House Office Building.
She’s that friendly face in line at the cafeteria.
And now, after 28 years of working for three Members, she’s retiring.
“I’ve had my thrill on Capitol Hill,” said Carolyn Anderson, special assistant to Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.). “I think it’s time to let the young people take over and let them see what it’s all about. It’s time to have time for myself.”
The 62-year-old, who spends her days answering phone calls from constituents and welcoming visitors to the office, earned the nickname “Miss Kansas” while working for former Kansas Rep. Jim Slattery (D). Despite that description, she’s actually a Washingtonian, born and raised.
“She took an interest in getting to know the people of Kansas,” Slattery said. “I may have given her that nickname. I know it came from our office.”
Growing up in the city, she never thought she would have anything to do with Congress, let alone work for its Members.
After she graduated from Eastern High School in 1966, she went to work for the American Council on Education. That’s where she remained for 17 years until 1983, when the higher education organization went through budget cuts and she was laid off. She was out of a job and, as a single mother, needed to support her daughter, Tamika.
A neighbor who worked in Longworth House Office Building’s post office mentioned that the House of Representatives, then in its 98th session, was hiring. Anderson went in, took a typing test and filled out a questionnaire. She was told that there was an opening in Slattery’s office. After an interview with the Representative’s staff, she was asked to start the next day. And just like that, her career on Capitol Hill began.
The years have been good to her. Thanks to her job and connections, she’s attended receptions (“I’m going to miss those”) and met people ranging from then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008 (“She just walked right up to him and told him she wanted to take a picture,” recalls Brandon Naylor, Moore’s communications director) to Fred Rogers, better known as TV show host Mister Rogers (“Oh, he was my favorite,” she said).
Slattery, who represented Kansas’s 2nd district from 1983 to 1995, fondly recalls the time that Anderson was the person behind the front desk of his office, calling her one of the most dedicated employees he ever had.
“When someone walks into a Congressional office, that first impression is so important,” he said. “They set the mood. I trusted her and she never disappointed.”
That’s what has made her a standout among the Hill crowd. Yes, she’s a hard worker — but she’s nice, too.
David Carlin, the son of former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, was an intern in Slattery’s office under Anderson. He described her has having a “larger-than-life personality.”
“She always gives you a great, big hug,” said Carlin, now a lawyer in D.C. “That’s something that typically doesn’t happen on the Hill.”
For Naylor, the most important thing he learned from four years of working with Anderson was to always be nice to people. Kindness, Anderson likes to say, gets you everywhere.
“She’ll call up the superintendent’s office with a request, and it’s here in five minutes,” he said. “When she’s walking around the hallway, everyone calls her Miss Carolyn or Miss Kansas.”
At Naylor’s description, Anderson just laughs and says, “I guess they just have respect for me.”
When Naylor walked into Moore’s office during August recess four years ago, he remembers her poking her head over the top of her desk, asking him if he was all right and if he needed anything.
Now, he calls her his “D.C. mom” and he’s her “kid on the side.”
Those are the kinds of relationships she developed over the years. She keeps in contact with Slattery and his family, as well as interns and other staffers she’s worked with over years.
And it’s paid off. Between the years that Slattery left Congress and Moore was elected, she worked for former Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-Mo.).
Howard Bauleke, who had worked in both Slattery’s and McCarthy’s office, became Moore’s chief of staff and suggested Anderson apply for a job in the Representative’s office. Years of working with Bauleke had taught Anderson one thing: They got along well. In fact, their famed banter and jokes about being a married couple continue to this day.
In addition, he got her back to working for the Kansas delegation, something she has enjoyed and will miss in her retirement.
Moore, a law school friend of Slattery’s, hadn’t known about Anderson and her reputation until she started working for him. But he’s glad he hired her.
“If there’s one thing I can say is my favorite thing about Miss Kansas, it’s her smile,” he said. “Whenever you walk in the door, she always has this big smile on her face.”