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Hill Climbers: A Passion for Education Led Teacher From Middle School to Fattah's Office

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
King was a middle-school teacher in south Philadelphia before coming to Capitol Hill. After a stint with Teach for America, she called her congressman’s office and found a new job.

But King has found a rather interesting way to alleviate some of the frustration of working in Washington.

“I wired a lighting circuit over the weekend, and so you connect the wires, you connect the switches and then you turn the switch on, and the light comes on — and it’s reliable and predictable and relatively efficient.”

Predictable and efficient are not adjectives Capitol Hill staffers regularly associate with their jobs, and certainly, there’s not a lot of immediate gratification to be found in the chambers of Congress.

King describes her boss as “very nerdy” and sheds some light on a morning office routine that Fattah’s staffers have come to know and love — when they are successful, that is. The goal of the appropriately named “Stump the Staffer” is to know more than the congressman does in the morning.

“Sometimes you are successful, and sometimes you are not so successful,” King said.

But apart from the occasional hiccup during “Stump the Staffer,” King finds herself almost perfectly ideologically aligned with her boss — a major motivating factor while doing her job and something not every staffer is lucky enough to find.

“I‘ve watched a lot of very good people come here and get very discouraged and flee,” she said.

King also takes issue with the assumption that Washington is as corrupt and dark as many people believe it to be.

“This place is not as shady as people think it is. There’s stuff that’s not OK; there are times when members and staff don’t approach the responsibility they have with the seriousness it deserves.” But, by and large, King said, she is impressed with how committed both members and staff are to doing the work they came to Washington to do.

And even those King vehemently disagrees with aren’t to be disrespected in Fattah’s office. They are, she said, “sincere and convicted in their incorrect thought.”

It’s that approach that has helped make King a successful and valued staffer. “Humility is a very difficult thing to retain in this world of egocentric Hill staff and egotistical politicians,” but at the end of the day, she said, it’s good to remind yourself that you’re an employee of the taxpayer.

That, too, is why she’s surprised by how much of a gaping chasm some constituents feel between themselves and Capitol Hill, something she wishes would change.

“It’s funny when people call the office and they’re clearly very daunted by the prospect of talking to someone in a congressional office and, like, people will always be nice to you, regardless of what you say, even crazy people who call — we’re nice to them!” she said.

Send news of hires and promotions on Capitol Hill to climbers@rollcall.com.

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