Hill Climbers: Plans for a Busy Year.

Posted January 30, 2009 at 3:46pm

It was the first board meeting of the year, but the executive members of the Congressional Black Associates already seemed to be in a working groove late last month as they coordinated plans for an upcoming event.

[IMGCAP(1)]President Brandon Garrett went through a list of priorities, while his vice president, secretary and several committee chairs piped in with their own opinions and divvied up the tasks.

Garrett, 30, is legislative director for Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), as well as CBA president. Before working for Fudge, he was a legislative assistant and policy adviser to former Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson (D).

When Garrett was first working on the Hill, he decided to go to a CBA meeting to meet new people. Before long, he was treasurer of the group, and after getting a taste of being on the executive board, he decided to run for president.

Garrett said he is most looking forward to “meeting the needs of the people we serve” and improving on past programs and events throughout this year.

Judging by the looks of a preliminary calendar they reviewed as they gathered in the Longworth cafeteria, Garrett and his colleagues have a full year ahead. But the executive members seemed confident that it would also be a productive one. They’ve certainly started it that way, considering that even before their first meeting, CBA members spent part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering at the Metro TeenAIDS center in response to President Barack

Obama’s call to service. Such work will likely be a hallmark of their tenure as board members.

“We want to capture the idea of service throughout everything we do, so we’re hopefully going to do good work this year,” said Richard Parker, chairman of community service.

Parker, 25, is a staff assistant to Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.). He first became involved with the CBA when board Secretary Brian Greer invited him to come along to a few meetings. Eventually, Parker decided to become a permanent member.

His position on the board suits the Brooklyn, N.Y., native well, as he lists community service among his top interests, a passion he first developed as a Boy Scout.

Vice President La’Tanta McCrimmon will be involved with all aspects of CBA, whether that means helping Garrett or working with the chairmen of various committees.

When McCrimmon first became involved with the organization in 2006, she was looking to interact with like-minded people and meet fellow staffers in the African-American community. She has remained involved because of the networking and social benefits.

“It’s really helped me grow personally, as well as professionally,” McCrimmon said. “I’ve made lasting friendships here.”

Like Garrett, McCrimmon also served on the board before being elected to her new position. She worked on professional development, which includes events such as résumé workshops. One of her favorite aspects of being in CBA is bringing high school students to Capitol Hill to experience what it is like to work there.

“They get to see people working on the Hill who look like them,” she said.

McCrimmon, 26, is a legislative assistant to Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.), and she is originally from Laurinburg, N.C.

Greer, a legislative assistant to Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), was also introduced to the group by a co-worker.

Originally from Marietta, Ga., the 26-year-old moved to Washington about four years ago to pursue his interest in politics.

“You meet a lot of people who want to get involved and make a difference, and who are going through the same things you are,” he said of CBA.

Chasseny Lewis moved up this year from social co-chairwoman to chairwoman. The legislative correspondent for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said she enjoys bringing people from different areas of the Hill together, which is why she has remained focused on the group’s social planning.

“CBA is a really good vehicle to unite people and bring them together on the Hill,” she said. Plus, “it’s just fun to hang out.”

Keidra King, 27, is Lewis’ co-chairwoman. Though she had been a dues-paying member of CBA already, she decided to turn her penchant for networking into an asset for the organization.

“I seemed to meet a lot of people on the Hill. I like socializing,” she said. Being social co-chairwoman seemed like a good way to “get more people involved in what CBA is trying to do.” King is executive assistant to Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).

Heading up the professional development side is Daria Dawson, a senior legislative assistant to Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.). Bethany Williams, a legislative correspondent for Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), will join Dawson as co-chairwoman.

Just as King decided to put her skill in socializing to use, Williams did the same in order to help fellow staffers build their networks and improve their job skills. In addition to résumé workshops, the professional development team sends out occasional job alerts and organizes the mentorship program.

Kristal Quarker, director of outreach for the House Republican Policy Committee, is CBA chairwoman.

Newly elected Parliamentarian Curtis Johnson works as a legislative correspondent for Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).

Send news of hires and promotions on Capitol Hill to climbers@rollcall.com.