Hill Climbers: Energy Influx

Posted July 29, 2008 at 5:02pm

Amanda Mertens Campbell is ready to devote herself to the House Energy and Commerce Committee — now that she has a firm grasp on who she is.

[IMGCAP(1)]Campbell is the daughter of a German immigrant, but she hardly knew about that side of her heritage for much of her life. Her father, who felt it was important to assimilate, worked hard to lose his accent and did not teach his children to speak German.

“I realized that was half of who I was that I had never been acquainted with,” Campbell said.

She got the chance to explore her roots in 2005, when she spent a year in Germany as a Robert Bosch fellow. Through the program, whose goal is the advancement of trans-Atlantic relations, Campbell was able to work with the German Ministry of Justice and the German Association of Gas and Water Industries. She is now fluent in German, and her husband, David Campbell, is the director of trade policy for the representative of German industry and trade.

Campbell, 31, had been working as an attorney for the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm Stinson Morrison Hecker since returning from Germany in 2006, but she was recently named minority counsel for the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality.

Campbell graduated from the Roger Williams University School of Law in 2005. As a member of the Junior League of Washington, she helps organize the National Book Festival.

With energy issues in the spotlight right now, Campbell said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be part of the policy process.

“To be part of the committee that’s helping to create our country’s energy path, I couldn’t say no it,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a more exciting place to be than the Hill.”

The committee’s new professional staff member, Andrea Spring, would probably agree.

[IMGCAP(2)]“I’m from Louisiana,” Spring said matter-of-factly, when asked why she wanted to work for the committee. “Energy issues come with the territory. Texas and Louisiana are probably two of the only states where people really talk about the price of a barrel of oil on a daily basis.”

Spring, 38, began working for the committee in May. Previously, she was director of legislative affairs at the Electric Power Supply Association from 2001 to 2007. She also spent 1998 and 1999 on the Hill as an intern for Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) and Richard Baker (R-La.).

Spring graduated from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996 with a master’s degree in public policy. She earned her bachelor’s in history from Yale University in 1992.

Aarti Shah signed on as counsel for the Subcommittee on Health in June. She had been working in Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) office as a senior legislative assistant.

“I wanted to do something a bit more challenging and the committee provided that opportunity,” she said.

Shah, 30, who is originally from Houston, moved to D.C. eight years ago for a health policy fellowship with the American Hospital Association.

She majored in biology at the University of Houston but decided she wanted to focus her career on health policy. She earned a master’s degree in health care administration from the Texas Woman’s University in 2000 and her law degree from Catholic University in 2007.

Shah is joined as health counsel by Clay Alspach, who left his job as an attorney in the Philadelphia office of the firm Reed Smith to return to the committee. He worked there as a legislative clerk from 1999 to 2000 before heading to law school at the University of Texas.

Alspach, 31, divides his time between Washington and his home in Philadelphia, where his wife, Sarah, lives.

“I’m living on coffee,” Alspach joked of his frequent commuting.

After graduating from law school in 2002, Alspach worked for Dwyer Connell & Lisbona. He also spent two years as a law clerk for Judge Ronald Buckwalter in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania before working for Reed Smith.

Alspach said he had always hoped to make it back to the Hill.

“I love politics. It was definitely part of the plan,” he said. “I’m really grateful to get this opportunity.”

Being away from home does have its drawbacks though.

“It’s tough that I don’t get to watch the Phillies,” he said.

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