After nearly 10 years on Capitol Hill, Jamie Jones Miller is settling into her new role as chief of staff for Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va.
Jones Miller was appointed Wittman’s top aide in February, when his longtime chief left for the private sector. Jones Miller previously served as the congressman’s deputy chief of staff and legislative director.
“Trying to take off the policy wonk hat has been challenging,” Jones Miller said, noting that she can still contribute to policy analysis in her new position. She is particularly interested in transportation issues, which raise questions she said are “fascinating to a policy nerd.”
Prior to working on Capitol Hill, Jones Miller focused on transportation issues as a lobbyist. She began lobbying the state government in South Carolina, but moved back to Virginia to be close to her family. She then joined Capital Partnerships as a lobbyist for homeland security and transportation matters.
“But I knew, sitting across from a staffer as a lobbyist and representing a client, that I didn’t know what it was like to be in a staffer’s seat — what process was happening behind closed doors,” Jones Miller said.
In 2004, there was an opening in Rep. J. Randy Forbes’ office for a legislative assistant focusing on transportation. Jones Miller knew the Virginia Republican’s legislative director at the time. She said: “I called him up and said, ‘Hey I’d really like y’all to take a chance on me,’ — and they did.”
She worked in Forbes’ office for three years. In 2007, Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., died of breast cancer, and Wittman was elected to fill the vacant seat in the House. Jones Miller said the opportunity to work in a new congressman’s office was “a very appealing challenge.”
When she is not on Capitol Hill, she can be found planning events and engaging students and alumni as president of the James Madison University Alumni Association.
Jones Miller is passionate about her alma mater, which she said prepared her for success in the workforce. It’s also where she met Tim Miller, her husband of more than 13 years.
The couple currently lives in Virginia but they enjoy touring around D.C. Jones Miller said she would really like to explore the Spy Museum, adding, “This probably tells you a lot about my family background.”
Following his time as a defense attaché for the Air Force, her father, Mark Jones, worked for the CIA. Her mother, Bobbie, worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“We have a family history of service to our country,” said Jones Miller. “I wanted to do my part and I felt that working on the Hill was a way to do my public service.”
Jones Miller has seen first-hand how Congress has evolved over the past 10 years.
“It’s different than it was 10 years ago, when members maybe had the time and the luxury of building personal relationships with each other,” she said.
According to Jones Miller, the perpetual news cycle and rise of social media have given members of Congress less time to devote to those relationships and can also exacerbate tensions between members. However, she said the new media also gives members the opportunity to directly engage with constituents.
Jones Miller is eager to connect with those constituents in her new role as chief of staff. She told Roll Call that she was able to rise through the ranks of staffers through a combination of a strong work ethic and supportive co-workers.
“It’s hard work, it’s being dedicated to serving others,” she said. “It’s just happenstance being on a really good team of people who believe in each other and do whatever they can for each other.”
Jones Miller also said that a successful staffer must be ready and willing to take on any task.
When Wittman moved offices, the staff was charged with transporting the avid outdoorsman’s hunting trophies. She said it was quite a sight, carrying the fish and birds that adorn the congressman’s walls through the House office buildings.
“We literally carried a school of fish from Longworth to Rayburn,” Jones Miller said. “You just never know what’s going to happen and that’s the really fun part of this job. Every day is different.”
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Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, holds his hand over his heart during the singing of the national anthem as he waits to take the stage for his town hall campaign rally with Sen. John McCain at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014.