After 25 years — including 11 sergeants-at-arms, two President Bushes, a 50-50 Senate membership split and too many vote-a-ramas to count — the director of the Senate Periodical Press Gallery is packing it up.
Ed Pesce will retire from his post in mid-February, the Capitol Hill veteran told Roll Call Friday.
"A few years ago, I kind of poked my head out and thought, 'What if?'" Pesce said. "I started talking to some people out in the private sector, and a lot of wonderful, gracious former staffers who I've kept in touch with over the years, and found out, in fact, there are options out there."
He isn't ready to "name names," Pesce said, but he plans to stay in Washington, D.C., and probably do something involving communications. "I have a home here, I have lots of friends here, and hopefully I expect I will have a job that is tied to D.C. or Congress in some capacity," he said.
This will be Pesce's first time working off Capitol Hill since not long after he graduated from college in May of 1990. He got his first promotion, he said, because "I studied English in undergrad, and economics, and I was comfortable with the media folks."
He became the deputy director sometime around 1996, and then took over as director in 2000, succeeding Jim Talbert (who died just last month, on Nov. 6).
"He was my predecessor and mentor," Pesce recalled. "He was really good to me. He was a wonderful, wonderful man. We used to call him the 'crusty marshmallow.' He was a tough guy on the outside and soft on the inside."
Pesce said he was excited about "life outside the Senate," but conceded there was much he would miss. He would miss the people, of course, and he's always enjoyed the flow of younger reporters who make their homes in the gallery and "keep me sharp."
"I love the fact that the galleries have always been neutral territory for press and press secretaries and communications directors for any of the Senate offices to come over here and talk to the press and talk about their issues and sometimes argue with the press," Pesce said with a laugh. "Back in the day I used to hear shouting matches in the hallway on certain issues. That happens more in phone calls and emails nowadays. That was always one thing I enjoyed."
As he ties up loose ends and prepares to hand the reigns over to his two deputies, Pesce said it wasn't lost on him all that he's seen over the past 25 years.
"You get to see the the best of staff, the best of Congress, the best of reporters," he said, "and you get to see the tougher times, how history handles that stuff. ... Where else do you have that kind of opportunity?"