Hill Climbers: A Wisconsin State of Mind

Posted April 28, 2009 at 3:54pm

For a would-be political type, a college internship in the White House press office would seem to offer all kinds of professional opportunities: networking, interacting with the media, learning how to navigate the political scene. But Leah Hunter also learned a thing or two about entertaining while she was there in 2004.

She dressed up as the Easter Bunny for the White House Easter Egg Roll that year.

[IMGCAP(1)]All of the interns volunteered to don costumes and help out at the event, and Hunter decided to join in.

“I put on the costume and took pictures of kids and had someone navigate me around the South Lawn,— she said.

Hunter returned to her native Wisconsin after that very glamorous internship experience, and it was several years before she decided to return to Washington.

The semester at the White House was Hunter’s first taste of political life. Though she valued the experience, she decided to try her hand at corporate communications.

Many of her University of Wisconsin classmates were going the agency route, and Hunter thought she would at least give it a shot. She graduated in 2005 with a degree in journalism and strategic communication.

Hunter started her career at Rippe Keane Marketing in Madison, Wis. While she was there, her projects included universities, food clients and an HMO plan. Nearly two years ago, she decided it was time to head back to D.C.

After about two years with DBC PR + New Media, Hunter decided it was time for a career change.

[IMGCAP(2)]“I was just interested in doing something that was a little more meaningful for me,— she said.

Besides, she couldn’t avoid the Washington scene for too long. “Politics is so much more interesting when you’re immersed in it,— she said.

A friend who had worked for Rep. Ron Kind encouraged Hunter to respond to an opening for a press secretary in the Wisconsin Democrat’s office. A Wisconsinite herself, Hunter appreciated that the Congressman is “very moderate— and was supportive of his ideas for the state. Intrigued by Kind’s work on the farm bill and initiatives he pushed for children’s health, Hunter decided to apply. Soon she was leaving her PR job for the life of a Congressional staffer.

Hunter started the job in early April and has been learning as she goes.

“The experience has been a bit of a whirlwind,— she said. “I was in the office for about three days and then I was sent out to the district.—

For a new press secretary, that was perhaps the best on-the-job training she could get.

“I got to travel with the Congressman and hear how he confronted issues with constituents,— she said.

When she isn’t doing press for Kind, Hunter enjoys running and checking out new art exhibits. She recently completed the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run and said running gives her “something to look forward to— outside of work.

The arts scene in D.C. is one of Hunter’s favorite things about the city. She said she has always been interested in art and having a boyfriend who is an art student at George Washington University has furthered that.

She said that a lack of art venues in Wisconsin has made her appreciate the resources here in Washington.

“It’s helped me see a whole new side of the art world,— she said.

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