Hill Climbers: Kansas Born and Bred

Posted July 21, 2009 at 3:16pm

Congressional hires and promotions often require staffers to engage in a crash course about their Member’s home state. Fortunately for Rep. Dennis Moore’s (D-Kan.) office, this was not the case with recent staff changes. In May, Moore made two changes to his staff with lifelong Kansans.

[IMGCAP(1)]Scott Stinson, 24, was promoted from executive assistant to legislative assistant. After working in Moore’s office for nearly two years, Stinson will now mostly oversee issue work, including input on legislation on the economy, Social Security and Medicare.

Hailing from Overland Park, Kan., Stinson interned with Moore in January 2005 while he was in college. Because of that internship and experience in other internships in Washington, D.C., Stinson set his sights on working full time in Moore’s office after graduation.

But that was not an easy path to follow.

“I applied twice for just an internship and then spent two years working for state Democratic parties before joining Congressman Moore’s office,— he said.

A 2005 graduate of the College of William & Mary, Stinson briefly worked at a law firm before becoming a regional field director for the Kansas Democratic Party in 2006. After the midterm election, Stinson worked for

the Virginia Democratic Party as field organizer until November 2007.

Although campaign work was not Stinson’s first choice, he said that time was rewarding. “When I worked as a field organizer in Kansas, there was a number of high-profile campaigns under way,— he said. “I was able to participate in the re-election of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and the election of the Democratic attorney general.—

Stinson at last got a desired position in Moore’s office after the 2007 Virginia state elections.

But in joining Moore’s office, Stinson said he gained more than just his dream job. “Working with the Congressman has really allowed me access to a wider network of people that I can relate to,— he said. “It’s especially nice during college basketball season because we’ll watch some games together.—

And although he is relatively new as legislative assistant, Stinson said he has adapted well to his new job’s demands. “I have a greater tolerance for some of the more undesirable aspects of the legislative process than others,— he said.

[IMGCAP(2)]Another change in Moore’s office this May was the addition of Ray Wittlinger as an executive assistant. In this position, Wittlinger is responsible for Moore’s schedule and for monitoring House floor proceedings.

A native of Olathe, Kan., the 23-year-old staffer said joining Moore’s office felt like a homecoming.

“In Congressman Moore’s office, the walls are covered with all sorts of [University of] Kansas … and Jayhawks paraphernalia,— he said. “It’s been really great so far because even though we are so far from Kansas, it feels like home.—

In his scheduling duties for the Congressman, Wittlinger also has the added benefit of staying abreast on the people and the news of his home district. “Sometimes I am able to catch up on what’s going on at my old high school,— he said.

A December 2008 graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in political science, Wittlinger joined the Congressman’s office with political experience on and off the Hill. During his summers as an undergraduate, Wittlinger interned for two Members of Congress, a Kansas legislator as well as then-Gov. Sebelius.

Wittlinger learned through those internships that he could actually work in Washington, D.C. “Interning on the Hill allowed me to combine my academic and career interests with my passion for public service,— he said. “I really found it all here.—

Another formative experience for Wittlinger’s decision to work in politics includes his 2007-2008 term as student body vice president for the University of Kansas, a school of nearly 30,000 students. Wittlinger said that he developed the necessary skills for public service as vice president.

“Even now, that position helps a lot with what I do,— he said. “I learned how to hold a schedule, talk with different constituencies and to understand campaigning,— he said.

Although at first glance Wittlinger might seem to exude pride for his home state through and through, he reluctantly admitted to having ties elsewhere: “Even though I am a Jayhawk, I come from deep Missouri family roots.—

Wittlinger said this occasionally presents for a fun atmosphere at work, especially when it comes to sports: “If you know anything about Kansas, there was a border war stretching back to the 1800s,— he said. “Instead of that, today the two states have the [University of Missouri-University of Kansas] rivalry.—

Submit news of hires and promotions on Capitol Hill to Hill Climbers here.