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.”
Bailey, also 28, gained most of his political experience from working as a Congressional staffer. Before being hired by Matsui, the Indiana native worked for then-Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), who lost his re-election in November.
But the gig, where he worked for three years, gave him the necessary ties to Matsui’s office. Not only were both lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but their offices were located across the hall from each other.
“I had become friends with some of the Congresswoman’s staff, so I already knew everyone prior to joining the office,” Bailey said.
After graduating from the College of Charleston in 2005, Bailey started an internship with Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) He did his next internship at the Glover Park Group, a D.C.-based communications firm, which turned into a full-time job. But after Hill won his election in 2006, Bailey seized the opportunity to get back into politics.
“I had always wanted to work on the Hill ever since middle school, which is kind of lame now that I think about it,” Bailey said with a laugh.
Victor also started his political career on the Hill, but in the Senate. After graduating from Whittier College in 2002, he secured a job with Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) He stayed in the office for five years and covered small-business issues.
“I graduated shortly after 9/11 and was looking for a job in the financial industry, but the job market in that sector was scarce,” Victor said. “I was always very interested in politics so I looked for a job on Capitol Hill, and I was fortunate enough to be hired by Sen. Carper.”
The 30-year-old, who hails from Delaware, left for Matsui’s office in 2007. He worked as a senior legislative assistant, where he handled energy, technology and small-business issues. He was promoted at the end of January.
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