This is what Nan Natcher knew about the great-great-uncle who worked for the same place she was going: He didn't miss a vote for more than 40 years. No pressure, then, for the great-great-niece of the late Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., who voted 18,401 straight times in a distinguished career representing Kentucky's 2nd District.
Now Nan Natcher, who worked for one of her uncle's successors, Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., for more than four years, has left the Hill to embark on a private sector career in Nashville, where she is brand print manager for North Star Destination Strategies, which works on community branding, economic development and tourism, among other issues. William H. Natcher, who came to Congress in an August 1953 special election and died in office on March 29, 1994, is a legendary figure in Kentucky and Washington. There are the 18,041 votes, of course. But he was also Appropriations chairman. He took no campaign contributions, financing them all himself, usually to the tune of a few thousand dollars. He had virtually no staff to speak of and did all his own preparation, background reading, etc.
Old bulls in the halls of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, typically had some sort of positive story to share with Nan Natcher when they found out who her uncle was, which helped her fill in some of the blanks in getting to know a man who died when she was quite young.
"He died while I was six, so I don't remember him vividly, but I remember coming to visit him, right before he died, and I remember his funeral, because I sat right behind President [Bill] Clinton," she recalled. In his remarks at that funeral, Clinton relayed his impressions of the congressman, ones that didn't come as a surprise to constituents or colleagues — and have endured.
"Why is it that I am so moved by this man? What is it that he has done, not just the votes and the no contributions and all that, what is it that he has done that if the rest of us could do it, we could really be true to the founders of this country, true to the challenges of our time? We could bring more harmony and a stronger sense of community to our people. What is it, exactly?" Clinton asked. "And I think what it was is that he found a way to live in Washington and work in politics and still be exactly the way he would have been if he'd been here in Bowling Green running a hardware store. And this country works well when people in Washington treat each other the way they would have to treat each other if they were living in Bowling Green."
Nan Natcher interned for Guthrie in 2009, while still a student at Western Kentucky University, her uncle's alma mater. She started as a staff assistant in early 2010 for Guthrie in his Bowling Green district office, working there until heading to Capitol Hill in June of 2012.
She sees a lot of similarities between her uncle and the congressman, despite them being of different political parties. "Both Brett and Uncle Bill were respected by so many different people back in the district, both sides of the aisle," she said.
Guthrie, a member of CQ Roll Call's Obscure Caucus , does seem cut from some of the same cloth as William H. Natcher: He's quiet; he works hard, particularly on a not-flashy topic, worker training; he's also a veteran, and he's popular with the home crowd. In November, he was easily elected to a fourth term.
For Guthrie, Nan Natcher provided a living link to William H. Natcher, whom he was proud to work with. “Representative Natcher has a tremendous legacy — both in Kentucky and in Washington. It’s been an honor being able to continue that legacy and having his great-great niece, Nan, serve as a member of my staff for the past four years. We’re going to miss Nan, but know she’ll ‘try to do it right’ in all her future endeavors — just like Bill,” Guthrie said in a statement.
Related: Obscure Caucus: The Quiet Men of Congress 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.