Leaving the Hill

Posted October 9, 2007 at 5:29pm

Caroline Baird is bowing out after a 10-year stint on Capitol Hill. She is only 27.

Her past eight years have been spent at the office of Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), whom she greatly admires.

“It was an honor to work for a Congressman who placed people above politics,” she wrote. “It has been a true privilege to join him in serving Nebraskans and our great nation.” [IMGCAP(1)]

The young woman currently is deciding whether to open a consulting business on her own or to partner with someone. Baird wants to create a business with “more flexible contracts, to allow more people to have access to their Representatives. She wants to do this because she thinks the current system is “prohibitive.”

She also wants to finish her book about the life stories of the people of Omaha.

This enthusiastic Republican began working full-time as an intern for then-Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) in 1997 and then worked for almost a year for then-Rep. Frank Riggs (R-Calif.) as a legislative correspondent.

The Clerk of the House verified in 1998 that she was the youngest woman ever to serve in that position for the House of Representatives.

While in Riggs’ office, Baird cleared more than 2,000 backlogged letters that the Congressman had accumulated, since he had been without a legislative correspondent for several months before she arrived.

She was a senior legislative correspondent and systems administrator for then-Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) for four months after her stint in Riggs’ office. This new position required her to assist with Barr’s activities in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial.

Barr requested that she stay in his office one month longer than she had planned. Baird obliged, switching to Terry’s office in May 1999 to take on the duties of senior legislative correspondent, account manager and systems administrator. She set up the constituent mail and budget management systems for the freshman Member and managed his million- dollar budget. [IMGCAP(2)]

One month later she earned a promotion, adding the titles of legislative aide and office manager and dropping the account manager title. Her responsibilities were multitudinous, including social legislative issues and an environmentally friendly housing project.

Baird was promoted after a year to legislative assistant in Terry’s office, and then became his senior legislative assistant in April 2006. The legislative agenda she took care of included the creation of Abstinence Education Day on the Hill, which grew from 25 to 120 participants in three years. Federal funding increased $40 million for abstinence programs during the same time.

She also waged her own war on drugs, assisting with the $50 million increase in funding for anti-drug law enforcement. A permit was issued to drill a well in Omaha under her watch, which had been thwarted by a seven-year backlog. As senior LA, Baird was responsible for the official funding requests for 13 appropriations subcommittees.

In April of this year, Baird became Terry’s legislative director. Since then, she has worked on the introduction of seven bills and five amendments.

Originally from Provo, Utah, Baird is overwhelmed with the Congressman’s dedication to his constituents.

“At a time when many Americans have lost faith in elected leaders, I found Congressman Terry to be a consistently principled family man who seeks to serve rather than be served,” she wrote. “Having previously worked for an impeachment manager in the trial of President Bill Clinton, I was used to dealing with angry, swearing citizens. Instead, I met some of the finest men and and women that I have ever had the privilege to serve.”

She recalled a situation in which a “flamboyant” constituent, wearing a cowboy hat and boots, walked into Terry’s office. The Congressman sat down with the man and “treated him with the same respect and consideration that I have seen him give the Commander of Offutt Air Force Base in his Congressional district.”

Before she came to the Hill, Baird worked as a reporter in Utah, and she has volunteered for national and state campaigns. A certified personal weight trainer, she is involved with several volunteer projects and has won awards for her poetry.

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