As the race to pass his trade agenda heats up, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has signed fellow marathon runner and expert tax lawyer Jason Park to his team as international trade counsel.
“There’s big things to do on the trade agenda. We have to draft these free-trade bills and agreements. Baucus is dedicated to passing them, and they will actually have a marked effect and improvement on our economy when we get them done,” said Park, whose switch from the Senate Budget Committee was announced last month.
The West Coast native was revenues counsel for Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.
At the age of 3, the Korean-born Park immigrated to the United States with his family. His father worked as an electrical engineer and his mother worked for the Post Office. “I worked very hard in school, my parents instilled that not going to college was not an option,” recalled Park, who attended Yale University.
As a child living just south of Seattle, he became fascinated with politics but chose to study medicine and worked at the Yale School of Medicine while in college.
“I quickly learned that hospitals are full of sick people. I was weeded out pretty quickly after two years,” he added.
During his time in college, Park got his first brush with Congress when he interned for Murray.
After graduation, Park came back to the Capitol to work in the mailroom as a staff assistant to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., for five months. In 1998, he jumped back to Murray’s office as a legislative correspondent for the next year and a half.
By 1999, Park had finally begun to settle in to life as a Dupont Circle resident when he met Alyssa Caroselli, now his wife, at a house party in Adams Morgan. The two relocated to Boston while she attended graduate school.
Park moved to New York to attend Columbia Law School from 2000 to 2003. During those years, he bounced between DLA Piper in Chicago, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C., and the New York City Law Department as a summer associate and legal intern.
“If you had met me in New York, I would have told you three things: Seattle’s better than New York, I had worked on the Hill and that I wanted to go back and work on the Hill,” Park noted, laughing at himself.
After law school, he happily returned to Washington, D.C., as an attorney at law for Akin Gump, where he focused on international trade matters from 2003 to 2006.
During that time, Park and Caroselli married, settling into life in Dupont Circle. Park cheerfully noted that he abandoned the notion of having a car 20 years ago.
“Every time I leave my house to go to Starbucks or to get groceries, I will run into someone I know either from law school or the Hill. It’s a real community; you have to have a walking pedestrian community for that to happen,” he said.
Park returned to the Hill as legislative counsel for Murray and spent more than six years with her office, becoming an expert on tax and trade and eventually becoming the Budget Committee’s revenues counsel.
“Sen. Murray has a lot of trust in her staff so she will let you use your best judgment and do the best that you can and sometimes when you get over your skis, she’ll back you up,” Park said.
The opportunity to work on issues that affect residents of the Evergreen State and the ability to do so in an office full of fairly laid-back Washingtonians felt like coming home, even 3,000 miles away from his favorite skiing peak at Snoqualmie Mountain.
Park continues to indulge in his favorite outdoors hobbies while out East, including the Boston Marathon in 2011. The race took a year of training, time that he had before the birth of daughter Avery, who is now a top priority in his life.
Though the running shoes are stored away, the newest addition to Baucus’ committee has connected with the senator over shared past times.
In 2003, Baucus finished an ultra-marathon — 50 miles — in 12 hours. For Park, his new boss’s achievement and persevering character while racing and at work are things he holds in high regard.
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