Gilman is a veteran of Congress, having experienced its power structure from all sides as an intern, a doorkeeper for the Senate sergeant-at-arms, a congressional aide and now as communications director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Democrats.
Ed Gilman came to Capitol Hill as an intern 14 years ago and he “never looked back.”
In early February, Gilman was appointed the Democrats’ communications director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its ranking member, Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va.
Gilman transitioned to Transportation and Infrastructure after serving Maine’s 2nd District for 13 years.
The Buxton, Maine, native began his career on the Hill as an intern for then-Rep. John Baldacci during his junior year at the University of Maine.
“I was hooked and knew that I wanted to come back down [to D.C.],” Gilman said. The internship sparked his interest in government and policy, and he noted that he originally planned to attend law school.
Gilman worked for the Senate sergeant-at-arms as a doorkeeper the next summer and returned to Washington after graduation, again working as a doorkeeper. After a few months, Gilman was hired as Baldacci’s office manager and staff assistant.
He was working as a legislative assistant when Baldacci was elected governor of Maine in 2002.
Rep. Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine, replaced Baldacci and kept Gilman on as a legislative staffer. Gilman then worked his way up to become senior legislative assistant, press secretary and communications director.
“People don’t know how much congressional offices do,”Gilman said. “And being able to help tell that story . . . was new to me coming from the policy side originally, and a side that I really ended up enjoying.”
In December of 2012, Gilman transitioned to communications director for the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and its Democratic members (Michaud, who is ranking member of the panel, is running for governor this cycle). Gilman said focusing on multiple members was an adjustment, but prepared him for his current position with Transportation and Infrastructure.
He decided to look for a new job when Michaud announced he would run for governor because “it made sense for me and my family . . . to be here at least for a few more years.”
Although Gilman is no longer working for his home state, he is excited about the challenge of working for a new committee and focusing on different issues.
Gilman has changed job titles multiple times over the past 14 years and said he has also witnessed broader changes to Capitol Hill, specifically an increased use of technology and heightened security.
“There’s everything before 9/11, everything after,” Gilman said, noting that the terrorist attacks brought more security to the Hill.
Gilman said 9/11, which happened shortly after he was hired as a full-time staffer, was a day he’ll never forget. The next morning, Gilman drove to work from his home in Alexandria, Va., heading north on I-395, and passing by the Pentagon, where smoke was still billowing from the crash site.
“I had to drive through the Pentagon’s smoke to get to work,” Gilman said. “It was definitely one of the most moving experiences of my life — to see that and to drive through it, to know I had to work on the Capitol, where later on we found out we were [a possible] target.”
A few weeks later, Baldacci’s office was the target of an anthrax attack and his staff was forced to vacate their offices. “There was this sense of, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Gilman said.
Yet he also recalled the unity that emerged after the attacks.
“Regardless of where you were on the political spectrum, everybody came together,” he said.
Gilman noted that today there is a perception that the strong sense of camaraderie has withered and Congress is plagued by polarization. While he admits there is some increased partisanship, he still sees Democrats and Republicans working together, just as he did when he first arrived on the Hill.
“I’m really happy to see that there remains a lot of bipartisanship still. It doesn’t always make the headlines, though,” said Gilman.
When he is not working on the Hill, Gilman can be found with his wife Kate and two-year-old daughter Mia at their home in Alexandria, or exploring the parks in D.C.
Gilman also enjoys photography and was quick to point to his photo of the World War II Memorial, which hangs in his new office.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.