Hill Climbers: Speaking Up

Posted July 31, 2009 at 2:46pm

Speaking Up. Nathaniel Sillin likes to talk. Rolling off sentence after sentence, he also sounds good at it. You might even think he should get paid to talk.

[IMGCAP(1)]And in fact, he is, in part, paid to do just that. In July, Sillin was hired as the communications director for Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.).

At the job for several weeks now, Sillin, 28, said he relishes the opportunity to work in politics as a “professional communicator.—

Aside from the standard responsibilities that go along with being a Member’s spokesman, Sillin said he sees more to the job. “Too many Members mistakenly believe that a press shop’s role is just to send out press releases and field calls from the media,— he said. “You can also be part of strategy steering— and helping to create public understanding, “which is something the Congressman gets.—

With Coffman only in the midst of his first term, Sillin said the job was the perfect opportunity to come back to the Hill after an absence of several years.

A 2003 graduate of the University of Vermont, Sillin got his start on Capitol Hill serving short stints with Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and in the communications office of the House Science and Technology Committee.

But he did not stay long. While working with the committee, Sillin was unable to pass up an opportunity that came his way. In 2005, at age 24, he took a position as an analyst with the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

[IMGCAP(2)]“That was really a great opportunity, but it was extremely fast-paced,— he said. With daily meetings as early as 7 a.m., Sillin crisscrossed the country meeting commissioners and community stakeholders.

Sillin said his time with the commission really served as a formative point in his life. “Base closures are always very polarizing, so wherever I went I was either someone’s best friend or their worst,— he said. “Often there was a passionate community involvement because you really could shut down a town.—

The commission wrapped up in early 2006. Jumping over to the field of public relations, Sillin worked in a small firm for nearly a year before gaining a job with R&R Partners in 2007. That job set him up for his eventual return to the Hill.

“R&R Partners has a real western focus,— he said. “I really learned about how big of an issue water is to much of the country, as well as the importance of natural resources and mining.—

Inadvertently, Sillin gained preparation for his job with a Congressman from Colorado. But it took the 2008 presidential election for him realize that he actually wanted to return to the Hill.

Sillin said it all clicked at the 2008 GOP convention. “I spent two weeks working in the convention communication shop as a volunteer,— he said. “Being in that environment reaffirmed my passion for political communications and made me realize I wanted to leave the private sector.—

Born and raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, Sillin said he actually considers Vermont his home state. To this day, his strongest organizational involvement remains in the state, where he sits on the University of Vermont’s alumni board.

An avid skier throughout high school, Sillin spent a post-graduate year at a ski racing academy in New Hampshire. In fact, if he were not on the Hill or working in communications, you might find him teaching there. “I thought I was really good at one time, but then reality sunk in,— he said.

Also a fan of golfing and sailing, Sillin approaches both sports with a competitive streak. “When I am on the golf course, you can guarantee there’s a serious match and a wager,— he said. A fan of William F. Buckley’s “Racing Through Paradise,— Sillin said one of his life goals includes a transpacific sailing trip.

Chances are that you will not soon catch Sillin golfing or sailing. However, you might spot him cooking. This self-proclaimed foodie is currently on a French bistro cooking streak.

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