Hill Climbers: Strategic Move

Posted December 9, 2008 at 4:24pm

When opportunity — unsought though it was — knocked, Jonathan Renfrew was quick to open the door. The former chief of staff for Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said he “wasn’t actively looking for a new job” but decided a chance to head the government law and strategies division at the international law firm Brown Rudnick was too good to pass up.

Not one to waste time, Renfrew bid adieu his colleagues in Larson’s office

on a Friday and was at Brown Rudnick’s D.C. office the following Monday. Although he values the 11 years he spent on the Hill, Renfrew said he is always open to new opportunities. “I didn’t want to look back six months from now and say ‘What if I had taken that challenge?’” [IMGCAP(1)]

As director of the government law and strategies department at the firm, Renfrew does consulting and advocacy work on a number of hot issues, including energy policy, financial services and health care. His new job keeps him working with people on the Hill, so he isn’t too far removed from his previous profession.

“I miss so much of it,” he said. “But I’m still connected to it at the same time. I still have a chance to see and talk with a lot of those folks.”

Renfrew worked for Larson for nearly 10 years, starting at his office in 1999 and serving as senior legislative assistant and legislative director before becoming chief of staff about two years ago. Before that, he spent a year as staff assistant to former Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D-Conn.).

Renfrew completed his master’s degree in business administration this year at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. He studied anthropology and English as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut and is originally from Wallingford, Conn. He still names the New York Giants and the New York Yankees as two of his favorite sports teams, although he also roots for the Washington Capitals.

Of all the things that he witnessed during his years on the Hill, his strongest memory is a sobering one. Renfrew recalled being on the Hill on Sept. 11.

“Looking back, it’s the whole day really, seeing everything happen and unfold, the evacuation,” he said. He distinctly recalls seeing all of the Members gathered on the steps of the Capitol spontaneously start singing “God Bless America.”

“It was a really memorable day,” he said.

Renfrew is well attuned to the government now, but his first love was actually archaeology. His interest in that area began with his anthropology studies in college. As an undergraduate, Renfrew joined the Public Archaeology Survey Team for a year, working at archaeological sites throughout southern New England.

He realized, however, that there was a limit to how far you could go in that field without a higher degree. So he decided to try working in another field before taking the next step in his education.

“I found a second love, and I’ve been here ever since,” he said.

Does he ever miss unearthing artifacts and the lure of his former career?

Sure, he said.

“But that’s something that will have to stay a hobby, at least until I retire.”

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