Hill Climbers: One Staff, Many Sports Loyalties

Posted June 5, 2009 at 4:10pm

One Staff, Many Sports Loyalties. These days, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has a lot going on. One group of employees, though, plans to continue to focus strictly on the issues concerning the Majority Leader’s agenda: his Congressional staff.

[IMGCAP(1)]Since January, the Majority Leader’s office has hired a number of staffers and made several promotions from within the ranks. Generally, there is fairly infrequent turnover in Hoyer’s office, and most of the staff has been with the Congressman for some time. The more recent changes to Hoyer’s team have been due in part to the movement surrounding the inauguration of President Barack Obama and the new Congress.

One of those changes comes with the hiring of John Hughes as senior policy adviser. Hughes joined the Majority Leader’s office in February after serving as counsel to the House Financial Services Committee. Hughes is a 1991 graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a degree in political science. He went on to attend the University of Michigan, where he received a master’s of public policy in 1993 and a J.D. in 1996. Hughes has worked on the Hill since 2007, when he was named counsel to the Financial Services Committee.

Hughes said that stepping into his new role as senior policy adviser was like joining a “collaborative, well-oiled machine.— His job involves overseeing financial services, trade, consumer and business issues.

[IMGCAP(2)]Another staff addition is Amy Schultz as senior legislative assistant. For the past three years, Schultz worked as a legislative assistant to Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.). As senior legislative assistant, she now works on the appropriations process for domestic policy issues.

Schultz described the switch from Scott’s office to Hoyer’s staff as “like going from 60 mph to 75 mph.— Despite the busier pace, Schultz said the transition process was relatively smooth. “The Majority Leader’s office is a great place if you don’t prefer to be idle. I had to work extra hard at first, but now I am very comfortable in what I do,— she said.

A native Marylander, Schultz grew up witnessing Hoyer in action. She is a 2005 graduate of the University of Wisconsin and notes that her allegiance to the Badgers can be a mild point of contention with the Majority Leader. “During my final interview, Mr. Hoyer’s first question was why I did not go to the University of Maryland,— she said.

Earlier this year, Troy G. Clair was promoted from special assistant to deputy director of external relations. Clair describes his job as being the “body guy— for Hoyer present at all the Congressman’s meetings and events. Clair also acts as a liaison for national outreach and other members on the Hill.

Having worked for Hoyer for two and a half years, Clair has gained an appreciation for the players and the politics behind policy.

“When Democrats first took the majority in 2007, I found it very easy to fold into Hoyer’s office. The staff is steeped in the issues and very experienced,— Clair said.

A 2003 graduate of Duke University, Clair’s loyalty to the Blue Devils sparks an “interesting rivalry— between him and Hoyer. “Sometimes the Majority Leader introduces me saying, I don’t know why I hired that guy,’— Clair said. At the end of the day, though, Clair applauds Hoyer’s ability to “get things done and advocate for his party while being practical.—

Also promoted earlier this year was Austin Burnes, who went from floor assistant to deputy floor director. He assists the floor director in managing the day-to-day operations on the House floor. “Now there is a lot more pressure to get things done, and we are focused like a laser beam on a number of issues,— Burnes said.

Burnes is a native Marylander who went on to attend college outside the state. A graduate of Wake Forest University, Burnes said that he tries to remind Hoyer when Maryland suffers a loss to the Demon Deacons.

Outside of college athletics, Burnes praises his boss. “Congressman Hoyer makes the staff want to get up and go to work and give 100 percent day in and day out,— said Burnes.

Another change to the floor team was made with the February promotion of Michael Eisenberg from staff assistant to floor assistant. Eisenberg is a 2006 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where he received a degree in American politics. A native of Philadelphia, Eisenberg first joined the Majority Leader’s staff two years ago.

Rounding out recent staff changes is Jessica Lemos, who just this May joined Hoyer’s staff as a legislative coordinator, a newly created position in the Majority Leader’s office. Lemos came to Hoyer’s staff from the office of Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), where she worked as senior policy adviser.

Lemos is a 2003 graduate of Tulane University and received a master’s in public policy in 2007 from American University. Her “obsession— with Congress created the desire to move to Washington for graduate school and eventually work on the Hill.

“I remember listening to Mr. Hoyer speak on the floor when I first started work on the Hill … his style of leadership defines what working on the Hill should be like,— she said.

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