Nelson said the relationships she established working for Cantor prepared her to branch out in Washington.
Valerie Nelson, most recently director of member services for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is embarking on what she calls a new adventure at Dentons as senior managing director of the firm’s public policy and regulation practice.
“I was thinking about [leaving the Hill] but I loved my job,” the Capitol Hill veteran said. “It was fun working in the leadership, being around this energy and policymaking, but I was ready to try a new adventure.”
Nelson said the friendships and relationships she established working for Cantor prepared her well to branch out into Washington’s other professional circles. “I got to know the people that interact with the members in their offices. I created friendships with people that aren’t working on the Hill, so I sort of knew what it was like out there but it was nothing like what I envisioned,” she explained.
“For me it’s the human relationship that sometimes this town is lacking in,” she said.
“I see people for who they are not just because they have a pin or because they are a chief of staff. The relationships supersede the title. That has been very rewarding for me. I think of these people as friends and I miss them! I watch C-SPAN and think — ooh —‘Who is in the chair?’ or ‘Good, good for her. That’s a good issue for her!’”
After living and working on the Hill for about 17 years, Nelson’s jump is taking her into unfamiliar territory.
“This is such a big change! Before, I didn’t have a reason to Metro to work. Transportation alone is new to me.”
Nelson was quick to clarify that she has taken Metro before. There was just never a need for her to commute via public transportation to work. Getting around the Hill was easier; it’s a much smaller area.
“It’s like being the new kid at school riding the bus,” she said, smiling. “I feel like I have my backpack on and Mom should say goodbye to me every morning, sending me off to school. I just haven’t done this in almost a decade! I even had to invest in some comfortable shoes because I’ve been doing a whole lot more walking than I ever remember before.”
Besides commuting, the timing of her day has been completely altered. During her tenure on the Hill, Nelson never kept normal business hours. Her days were filled with early mornings and late evenings, trying to fit in a small bit of time for friends if they could sync schedules.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.