Exit Interview: Scott Overland Cherishes Congressional Cutups

Leaving the friends he made and inspirational figures he encountered while working on Capitol Hill is no easy task for former staffer Scott Overland. But he’s made his peace with moving on (Best of luck leading the pack as PetSmart's man for legislative affairs!) by clinging to the joie de vivre inculcated in him by quick-witted pols. The communications pro flexed his messaging muscles in both chambers, working first for former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., and most recently for Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. Each man, he suggested, knew how to keep things pretty lively. Lieberman (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo) “Sen. Lieberman has a great, dry sense of humor that is infinitely better in person than on TV,” Overland said of the one-time vice presidential hopeful. Per Overland, that office was so tight, staff would allow fate to dictate their dining choices. “We got to explore a lot of great hidden places in the Lieberman office, as we had a tool called the ‘Wheel of Destiny’ that we made and filled in with different lunch places. We would spin it during recess to decide where to go,” he said of the serendipitous meal selection process. These days, Overland sticks with trusted local eateries, a well-researched roster that includes the likes of DCity Smokehouse (“Probably the best barbecue in the city,” he said of the meat carnival prominently featured in a certain congressional newspaper's debut dining guide.) as well as neighboring Deli City (2200 Bladensburg Road NE). “It has some of the most amazing corned beef and pastrami, served along side giant cups of sweet tea and fried pork chops. Quite the experience,” he asserted. Polis (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo) “Jared has a more creative sense of humor that comes out the most in a policy context,” Overland said. That levity, he suggested, was freely woven into speeches and talking points. And neither party, Democratic or Republican, was spared from serving as a perfectly good punch line. Likewise, the mirth-making was not limited to any one side of the aisle. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo) “Orrin Hatch has a very under-appreciated sense of humor, whether intentional or not,” Overland said of the Utah Republican. He recalled that while sitting in on a visiting radio program camped out in Lieberman’s office, Hatch put on little show of his own. “As he was talking about the good relationship between Mormons and Jews, he started to unbutton his shirt. The hosts were clearly a little taken aback,” Overland said of the disorienting development. “And then he whipped out a tiny mezuzah that he wore around his neck,” Overland recalled of the tension-breaking reveal. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (CQ Roll Call File Photo) Although some can't seem to stomach Arizona Republican John McCain’s famously morbid funny bone, Overland said he just eats it up. “My old boss in Lieberman’s office, Marshall Wittmann, also worked for McCain. So every time we’d run into him, he would make comments, loud enough so everyone around could hear, like, ‘So Marshall, how was this stint in prison?’ or when Marshall wasn’t there, he would constantly ask, ‘Is he dead yet?’” he said of McCain’s deadpan delivery. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. (CQ RolL Call File Photo) In Overland’s eyes, appropriator emeritus Byrd remains the king of rhetoric. “We used to stop everything every time he came on the floor to speak … and he never disappointed,” Overland said of the bombastic pol. And yet the late lawmaker was often the first to lay into himself. “Once when I was showing a friend and his dad around the Capitol, he was being pushed by in a wheelchair, which slowed as he approached us. He looked up at us and said, entirely unprompted, ‘The only thing older than me is this building.’ And then he continued on his way,” Overland recalled. Per Overland, the good times — though often hectic — occasionally turned out really great. “My best day on the Hill was probably one of the craziest,” he said of a doozy of an assignment rounding up talking heads for Connecticut radio hosts Chaz and AJ. “They used to send me an absurd list of requested guests, from the president and VP to the Cabinet, Supreme Court, on down,” Overland said of the pie-in-the-sky “gets” floated by the visiting entertainers. Then the unthinkable happened. “Through some twist of fate, then-Vice President Dick Cheney and Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia agreed to come to the office, in person, for the show. To make things even more crazy, they were back to back,” he said of the unbelievable booking. The ensuing preparations meant Overland had to spend days in meetings with competing security details (Secret Service, Supreme Court, U.S. Capitol Police) to ensure that the VIPs would be well attended to during the day of the show. “It was pretty surreal,” he said of the logistical nightmare. The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.