At some point in their careers, most young Hill staffers have the arduous task of giving Capitol tours to visitors. But a handful of these staffers are lucky enough to give the tours to people who defended the Capitol Dome and everything it stands for.
“My most memorable moment on the Hill was when we gave Capitol tours to veterans. It was absolutely amazing,” said Kate Thompson, now communications director for Rep. Frank Lucas. “Some of them had never been before, and they kept hugging us and thanking us, when in actuality, it was us who should be thanking them for defending our country.”
Thompson, who started with the Oklahoma Republican in October, gave the tours to World War II veterans during her stint with Rep. Louie Gohmert. As a native of the Lone Star State — Thompson hails from Houston — she held close ties to the Texas Republican’s office, which helped ease her transition from a recruiting job downtown to her first gig on the Hill.
The 26-year-old majored in communications at Texas A&M University. She started as a legislative correspondent for Gohmert in October 2007 and was promoted to special projects coordinator in May. But after she worked in the office for three years, a new opportunity arose.
“I am the Texas representative for Taste of the South, which is how I met the former press secretary” for Lucas, she said. “She mentioned I would be a great fit for the office.”
Taste of the South, a fundraising organization in D.C. that holds Southern- themed dinners and dances, provided Thompson with authentic barbecue, lasting friendships and ultimately a job with Lucas.
Since starting in October, the communications director has primarily acted as a liaison between the press in Oklahoma and the office in D.C. While working with the media comes naturally to Thompson, she had to work hard to learn about agriculture and financial services, two areas she knew little about before starting.
But dealing with the press has taught her that it’s important to be knowledgeable about every issue the office deals with, and she uses conventional — and not so conventional — methods to teach herself the basics.
“I want to understand everything my boss is talking about. It benefits the whole office if I do,” she said. “So sometimes I’ll just yell across the room, ‘Hey guys, what does this mean?’ to the other staffers. Luckily, they’re very understanding and helpful.”
Thompson’s co-workers are less understanding when she gets excited about snow. Even the tiniest of flurries can make her happy, a prospect that her Oklahoma comrades are less enthusiastic about.
“Every time it snows, I freak out and ask why nobody else is as excited as I am,” she said. “But even though I love the snow, I still don’t know how to dig my car out. I have to have my Illinois friends help me. I guess that’s why no one else is excited.”
Thompson has missed her family and friends since moving to D.C. four years ago, but she is proud to call Washington home (despite protests from her mother). With exciting times ahead for her office — Lucas was named chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in December — the staffer has no intention of leaving any time soon.
“I’ve worked on the Hill since October 2007 and haven’t left since. I even live on the Hill. And my roommate works here, too,” she said. “I think that’s what they call a ‘Hill rat.’”
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Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.