As Reggie McCrimmon finishes up his term as president of the Congressional Black Associates, he finds his focus has shifted.
When McCrimmon took over the CBA — a bipartisan, bicameral staff association that is the oldest on Capitol Hill — he knew the importance of staff associations in helping with personal development, but his members showed him a different way to do that.
“What I found was there was a unique interest in community service and those who just felt the only way that we get ahead and the only way that we can really pay it forward is to continue to give back to those who don’t know these opportunities exist,” he said.
“We’ve done a lot of food banks in D.C.,” he said. “Staffers go to receptions all the time but when you see homelessness, especially in a city like this, it kind of bothers everyone and you’re not always in a position to give money out of your own pocket being a Hill staffer. So, food banks have been good opportunities and it’s been encouraging to see the work that they do.”
By day, McCrimmon has been the director of member services and external affairs for the Congressional Black Caucus for just under two years. He worked in CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield’s office for two years prior.
The CBA has 125 active members and “a very, very large network — one that I wasn’t even fully aware of until I gained the position and gained the contacts,” he said.
“You get to be around some of the brightest persons I see on the Hill and those that have very similar backgrounds as you have,” McCrimmon said. “And very, very similar goals and objectives and you realize that moving collectively together is a lot better than trying to take on and do this thing alone on the Hill.”
From community service three times a year and general assembly meetings four times a year to speaking to visiting student groups and attending various panels on everything from resume building to personal finances, CBA members keep busy.
“We [will] continue to do what we’ve always done,” McCrimmon said of the CBA’s plans for the 115th Congress. “And that is to continue to help prepare and build very strong, bright, knowledgeable, resourceful, staffers.”
He added, “Great leaders aren’t born, they’re built. And that’s been the gist of our professional development. It just doesn’t happen overnight.”
The CBA has a board of six members who “all pitch in,” he said, and members’ dues fund the group’s activities.
And, the CBA works with the other staff associations focused on driving diversity on Capitol Hill.
“If there’s anything I focus more on in my personal conversations with anybody, [it] has been how we can increase diversity on the Hill from a bipartisan standpoint,” he said. “It has to be intentional from the offices who seek to diversify — it doesn’t just happen.”
He added, “The pipeline isn’t the problem. It exists. There are several organizations who are building great leaders who bring people who would otherwise not have an opportunity to come to the Hill.”