Sensenbrenner sees his staff as a family, and he keeps in touch with former aides.
“I always take a call from somebody that says, ‘Hey, I worked for Jim Sensenbrenner,’” said Sheehy, who now serves as president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. “The strength of the alumni network approaches the strength of the alumni network at some colleges.”
Patty Reimann, who worked in the congressman’s district office for 15 years before leaving in 1996 to take care of her family, said she stays involved with the Sensenbrenner staff family, helping raise money for his campaigns and keeping in touch with current staffers whom she’s known for years.
“Once you’re a Sensenbrenner staffer, you’re always in the fold,” Reimann said.
She said the alumni network — which spreads across Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. — is always available for current staffers seeking advice on casework, which helps the office run smoother.
“You always have someone to turn to, to lean on to ask a question,” Reimann said. “Or if you’re looking for someone to remember a fun story about the office, someone is there.”
Bart Forsyth, Sensenbrenner’s current chief of staff, said the alumni network is invaluable to those who currently work in the lawmaker’s office. He said he keeps in touch with former staffers both in a friendly way and as a source for professional advice.
“There’s no question that it’s an asset — institutional memory, connections to countless new people, and sometimes just as sounding boards for new ideas,” Forsyth said. “I think the long tenure of Sensenbrenner staffers and the continued loyalty post-employment stems from the fact that he’s a good boss. He’s an effective member of Congress and he has a lot of respect for the people who work for him. As a result, we feel like we’re making a difference.”