It’s no surprise that Janelle Belland, scheduler for Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., was voted most conservative in her high-school class senior year.
“I had a photo of Bob Dole in my locker in high school,” Belland said, perhaps ironic now that the former Republican senator from Kansas has said the GOP might be too conservative even for him.
Belland grew up in White Bear Lake, Minn., and attended an all-girls convent high school, where she was encouraged by teachers who “really wanted women to have a voice,” she said.
Later, she took her interest in government to the University of Dayton in Ohio, where she majored in political science and took every available opportunity to show up in Washington, landing herself an internship with then-Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz. That put her in the position of being able to take a full-time position with Renzi when her internship was over.
“I was graduating, and they needed a scheduler,” Belland said. “So they hired me, I went back to Ohio, graduated, then came out here like a week later, started scheduling and just got kind of thrown into it.”
But Belland offers up an unusual confession for someone whose job it is to schedule the activities of a busy member of Congress.
“I’m not the most punctual person,” she sheepishly admitted.
But, she said, she doesn’t let that get in the way of her job and, despite her personal struggles with punctuality, nearly always gets to the office each morning before Kline arrives.
“I just always really liked, kind of, the behind-the-scenes work of Washington,” Belland said.
And although Belland does do such behind-the-scenes work on Capitol Hill, she is in some ways the face of Kline’s office, and a very happy face at that — the kind of person that would put you in a good mood right off the bat — which is helpful when constituents arrive at Kline’s door.
“I think I have a pretty good read on people,” she said. “So I can tell if they come in and if they’re upset about, you know, that they’re not meeting with Mr. Kline.”
And sometimes it’s the little things like that — putting a frustrated visitor at ease, making sure there are the correct number of chairs for each individual meeting, turning the lights on in the congressman’s office before he gets to work, watching the clock during appointments and events — that make a day flow so smoothly.
But by and large, Belland’s day is about emails — the “hundreds of emails” she receives requesting Kline for one event or another. And it takes constant attention to keep on top of them all. “Every so often I want to sit down and count them,” she said.
While each request goes through a lengthy review process, Belland is the first point of contact for so many people contacting the office.
“I always contact the person right away to let them know I got the request — to buy me some time,” she said.
But it’s not just about buying time. Belland is constantly aware that everything she does is a reflection on Kline, who, she said, as chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, gets more requests than other members she’s previously worked for.
“I don’t want someone, you know, waiting for an email response from me just because I’m stressed out or busy,” she said.
Most of the time, Belland doesn’t attend events with Kline, whom she describes as very independent in that regard, but she does on occasion drive him to events.
“If it’s something that’s fun, he’ll say, ‘Do you want to come in with me?’ or I’ll just wait and he’ll run in and do the event and then I’ll bring him back to the Capitol.”
Belland describes Kline as “talented” particularly when it comes to retaining detailed information.
“The information that the staff throws at him, and he just retains all of it — I can’t even believe it.”
Five years down the line, Belland would be happy to still be in Washington. Although, a home bird at heart and bursting with Minnesota pride, she wonders if D.C. might not be the best place to “get married and have kids.”
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