Hill Climbers: Change for All

Posted June 2, 2009 at 3:09pm

Presidential elections are, of course, about change. More than just a campaign slogan, election results tangibly influence the tempo of Washington beyond the White House. For Rachel Carr, the election served as an opportunity to make a full circle back to the Hill.

[IMGCAP(1)]After graduation in 1999, Carr began her Hill career working as a staff assistant with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but she eventually left Capitol Hill for the nonprofit world. Last year’s presidential election served as a catalyst for Carr to get back on the Hill, ultimately leading her to the same committee she had worked on 10 years prior.

This past March, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) appointed Carr majority counsel to the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. She oversees all issues under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, which includes surface transportation authorization, review of hazardous materials and pipeline programs, and the authorization of the Surface Transportation Board.

After the election in which Carr had volunteered for the Obama campaign, “I knew I had to move back. I wanted to find a way to contribute,— Carr stated.

[IMGCAP(2)]More than just wanting to be on the Hill with Obama as president, though, Carr describes the course of her journey back as preparation for her job as majority counsel. “Everything I have done until this point has been great preparation for my position with the committee,— she stated.

Carr left Washington, D.C., three years ago, working in California as a litigation attorney with a firm specializing

in aviation law. Reflecting on the similarities between that job and work on the subcommittee, Carr said her work on the West Coast focused on transportation law. And she said the increase in responsibilities will make her subcommittee work especially rewarding. Carr expressed a newfound appreciation in being back on the Hill, saying “by working for the committee, I have an opportunity to work on issues that affect the entire country.—

Before working with the law firm, Carr’s work spanned both pubic and nonprofit sectors. From 2000 to 2002, Carr worked on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as a staff assistant to two subcommittees, Aviation and Railroads. She then transitioned to the nonprofit sector as manager of legislative affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in the D.C. Carr held this position until 2005, when she moved to California to work in a private firm.

After having worked in aviation for 10 years, Carr now looks forward to broadening her work in transportation, particularly in the railroad industry. An extensive background in transportation law dovetails well with Carr’s love of travel. Having studied in Belgium, Chile and Spain during her time as an undergraduate and a law student, Carr describes herself as “passport happy.— Carr graduated with a degree in engineering from Lafayette College in 1999 and received a J.D. from American University in 2005.

As thrilled as Carr is to be back on the Hill, she says she’s also excited about the possibility of accomplishing things with the subcommittee as well as about returning to Washington. She’s looking forward to the chance to work with her mentors from the time she was a staff assistant for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

For now, the Hill has caught this self-described travel nut in the very place she started.

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