It’s day seven in the office of freshman Rep. Michael Grimm and the coffeemaker, watercooler and paper cups have just arrived on a metal dolly. The excitement is palpable, despite the caffeine drought that has plagued Room 512 in the Cannon House Office Building throughout the past week.
“I didn’t drink water for the first two days,” said Carol Danko, communications director for the New York Republican. “We were so busy. I’m probably still dehydrated and don’t even know it!”
Grimm’s seven-person staff has been working around the clock to jump-start the new office. When they first arrived, desks needed to be moved, furniture needed to be swapped and computers needed to be plugged in. Yet the team still managed to introduce the lawmaker’s first bill, the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act.
But despite the pressures of starting from scratch, none of the staffers — all of whom have some sort of experience under their belts — reported any anxiety before starting with the Congressman on Jan. 3.
“It was such an easy transition for all of us. I didn’t even have that nervous, first-day-of-school feeling,” Danko, 30, said.
The New Jersey native started as a press intern for Rep. Tom Price in 2005 after she received her master’s in public administration from New York University. Her time as an undergraduate at Emory University gave her the necessary ties to the Georgia Republican’s office.
Although Danko served a brief stint as an editor for a fashion magazine after her undergraduate years, she ultimately landed a gig on Capitol Hill with Rep. Peter King, where she stayed on as legislative assistant for the New York Republican for four years.
Chief of Staff Chris Berardini was raised just north of Syracuse, N.Y., but has been in D.C. for the past 10 years. The 35-year-old has filled almost every role possible on the Hill, from unpaid intern to chief of staff for former Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.). After his boss decided to retire last year, Berardini quickly jumped on board with Grimm, a Member whose story is anything but ordinary.
“His background speaks for itself. Actually, it kind of yells for itself,” said Legislative Director Aaron Ringel, 30. “He’s a former Marine veteran of Desert Storm, he served in the FBI in some of the most high-profile and interesting cases an undercover agent could work on, and it segues very well into what he’s going to be doing on Capitol Hill with financial reform. Although he’s not going undercover in the Democratic Caucus.”
Ringel, born in Arlington, Va., received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kansas but later earned his master’s degree in U.S. foreign policy at American University.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.