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Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip in Boehnerland

His Sept. 25 decision to relinquish command of the increasingly unruly House of Representatives left many of those who learned the ways of Washington beneath the wing of retiring Speaker John A. Boehner utterly speechless.  

(Bill Clark/Roll Call/Pool)

Sorrow, though, wasn’t the predominant emotion.  

In some cases, it appeared to be relief.  

“I’m never surprised by John Boehner,” one-time spokesman Terry Holt said of the Ohio Republican’s caucus-rocking announcement. “He’s been clear and consistent in his leadership from the very beginning.”  

In Holt’s estimation, walking away now makes perfect sense.  

“He doesn’t see a productive way forward,” Holt said. “There are too many people who don’t share a sense of team.”  

“The dysfunction of Congress is malignant. He has always led from the front … [rather] than those who attempt to do so today on Twitter,” Holt asserted, taking a swipe at the growing ranks of Web-obsessed, would-be leaders.  

Chad Kolton, a former Boehner aide who co-founded Blueprint Communications, seemed more caught off guard by the timing of it all than by the resignation itself.  

“I was surprised about it coming so closely on the heels of an event that was so wildly successful,” he said, billing the devout Roman Catholic’s triumphant bid to have Pope Francis address both chambers of Congress as the culmination of a deeply personal campaign. “It’d be tough to top the last few days for him.”  

For Kolton, Boehner remains a top-tier communicator, statesman and all around team builder. “He is my political hero … the epitome of the sort of person you want in government and in leadership,” he asserted.  

It sounds like Kolton learned a lot from his time with Boehner — including the quintessential lesson of facing one’s deepest, darkest professional fears.  

That came to pass the day he was unexpectedly summoned to Boehner’s congressional hideaway.  

“When is getting called to the boss’ office ever a good thing?” asked Kolton, who was then very low man on the messaging totem pole within the House Republican Conference. “I was scared to death walking all the way over there.”  

When Kolton broached the entryway to the then-rising GOP star’s sanctum, he found Boehner largely alone (there was one other staffer present) with his thoughts.  

Then the future speaker broke the terribly uncomfortable silence.  

“He said he had called me over to tell me that he thought I was doing a really good job and that he appreciated all my hard work,” Kolton said of the out-of-the-blue acknowledgment.  

The munificent gesture still means the world to him.  

“He is generous in spirit. And I’ll bet you everyone who has ever worked for him, probably ever, has a similar story to share,” Kolton assured HOH.  

Related: Ginning Up One Last Brush with John Boehner See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.