Hill Climbers: Making Up for Lost Time

Posted September 22, 2009 at 4:36pm

If Michael Ricci had pursued his first career choice out of college, you probably would not see him on the Hill today.

[IMGCAP(1)]These days, Ricci can be found in the office of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), where he was just hired as deputy communications director, but that job was certainly not his first line of work.

After graduating from Columbia University in 2002, Ricci headed back home to East Meadow, N.Y., to work with Estée Lauder. At the time, his career decision was nobler than helping people to find good skin care and makeup. Working in marketing, Ricci wanted to be home while his mom, Barbara, battled breast cancer.

A third-grade teacher, Ricci’s mom is his living inspiration, he said. “I wear a pink bracelet to remind me to call her every day.—

Now that his mom is a five-year breast cancer survivor, Ricci looks back on the time with Estée Lauder as a unique experience — he got to give the company perks to his mom — but one that ultimately was not for him. “In the summer of 2004, I had an epiphany that it was time to do what I wanted to do in the first place,— Ricci said.

Packing up his things, Ricci set forth to Washington, D.C. Without a political job lined up, Ricci found work as a faculty adviser with the National Youth Leadership Forum, an educational organization that runs leadership programs for high school students.

“It was fortuitous, really, because my mom was moving out of her house at the time and the National Youth Leadership Forum provided housing while the programs were running,— Ricci said.

[IMGCAP(2)]After working with the National Youth Leadership Forum on and off for about nine months, Ricci finally got his shot at politics. In August 2005, Ricci joined the National Republican Congressional Committee as a speechwriter.

Ricci fondly looked back his job with the NRCC, working in a “little cube next to a refrigerator.— Well, at least most of it. “Any time I had to write something in short order, these important folks, the senior staff, would stand over me with a wiffle ball and baseball bats — talk about trial by fire,— he said.

Jumping into politics during the midterm election cycle was an experience Ricci said was like no other. “When I came onto the NRCC, the GOP was at the height of its majority,— Ricci said. “At the time, I was intimidated, but it really was the best way to learn, with in a unique, busy cycle.—

Leaving the NRCC in the 2006, Ricci was hired as deputy communications director for the House Republican Conference under the leadership of then-Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.).

While working for the conference, Ricci said, he was able to form close working relationships with Boehner’s press office, although those relationships would have to wait to pay off. In January, Ricci moved to the office Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) for stint as communications director, the job he held before joining Boehner’s office. “Working for a first-term Congressman and the leadership office is different,— he said. “The stakes have never been higher here.—

A self-described grammar dork, Ricci said he knew where he would be if he were not in political communications — with his girlfriend, Kirsten. “I am not sure what I’d be doing, but I’d definitely be in Atlanta with her if I wasn’t here doing this particular job,— he said.

But in the meantime, politics still measures up for him.

“I drive over the 14th Street Bridge every morning,— Ricci said. “For me, the sign of it being time for me to move on is getting tired of that view.—

Also joining Ricci in the Minority Leader’s office is Betsy Andres, 26, who started as deputy press secretary Sept. 16.

Andres primarily books Boehner’s media appearances. Her political experience extends past her professional career — way beyond it. “My dad worked for George H.W. Bush in his legislative affairs shop,— she said. “As a little girl, I spent many a weekend playing with my brothers in the East Wing of the White House while my dad worked.—

Andres earned a degree in art history from James Madison University in 2005. She said it made sense to return to the Hill after college, especially with several internships under her belt.

Since graduating, Andres has worked for the House Republican Conference, the Republican staff of the House Ways and Means Committee and, like her new colleague, for the NRCC. Immediately prior to her job with Boehner, she briefly tried her hand in the private sector, working as an account supervisor for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.

A native of Falls Church, Andres said she could not be happier to live and work in the city she was practically born and raised in. With a brother working for House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and her father working just off the Hill at Dutko Worldwide, Andres will soon have even more family in politics.

“My soon-to-be husband works across the hall from me,— she said. “My fiancé, Geoff Embler, is Rep. Boehner’s director of legislative research. I’m literally surrounded by my family all day — I love it!—

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