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Starting a new job can be intimidating, especially when your boss is a lawmaker on Capitol Hill.
But the office of Rep. Doris Matsui, a California Democrat who used to be a Congressional staffer, has none of that tension. In fact, three new hires said the Congresswoman’s background has made for an easy transition into their new roles.
“She talks to everyone in our office and doesn’t just go to the legislative director or the communications director,” Deputy Chief of Staff Mara Lee said. “She wants to know what everyone in the office is doing and will talk to all of us. She’s very flexible and hands-on.”
Matsui has made some key changes in her office in the past month. She promoted Lee from communications director, promoted Kyle Victor to legislative director and hired Joel Bailey as senior legislative assistant.
Lee, 28, started with Matsui three years ago and became deputy chief of staff three weeks ago. She still handles communications for the Congresswoman, but the California native got her political kick-start on the campaign trail.
After graduating from the University of California at San Diego, Lee worked as a field organizer for the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). She went on to work for several more campaigns, including the presidential primary campaign for then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and the general election campaign for President Barack Obama.
But Lee, recognizing her addiction to the campaign trail, wanted to focus on a master’s degree in political science, so to avoid temptation, she studied at the University of London. She also met her current husband while abroad.
After she moved back to the U.S., Lee decided she wanted to work on the Hill. She said since she had already worked to get Democrats into power, she wanted to work on the governing side of that.
Lee now plans to stay on the Hill, at least for a while.
“I just renewed the lease on my apartment, which is kind of weird for me,” Lee said.
Her most validating moment in Matsui’s office was getting the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act passed through the House and the Senate. The bill, which protects Americans on cruise ships once they leave U.S. waters, was prompted by a constituent who had been sexually assaulted on a cruise.
“I worked on this bill for the last year and a half,” Lee said. “It was a really special moment to see this bill pass.”