Hill Climbers: Texas-Sized Changes

Posted October 23, 2009 at 3:02pm

Pity the fool who wasn’t born in Texas. In the case of staffers working for Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), you ought to at least poke fun.

[IMGCAP(1)]Six staff shuffles have taken place in Barton’s office this year. And, unsurprisingly, only one of the changes involved a non-Texan.

Nevertheless, all of Barton’s staffers bring a Texas-sized love for their jobs, even those unfortunate enough not to have been born in the Lone Star State.

Earlier this year, Ryan Thompson, 34, was made deputy chief of staff. Thompson is a longtime Hill staffer who has been everything from Barton’s campaign director to his special assistant.

The Hill wasn’t the first calling for this native of Austin. Ten days after graduating from high school, Barton enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he served from 1993 to 1997.

After getting out of the military, Thompson enrolled in Texas A&M University, where he earned a degree in history in 2001. After realizing that his “skill sets weren’t marketable anywhere else,— Thompson headed to Washington, D.C.

His persistence would eventually pay off when he landed a job in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, but Thompson would stay there only briefly, moving on to work with Barton.

Thompson said he takes the good with the bad in living outside of Texas.

“I can enjoy all D.C. has to offer without giving up my Texas license plates or paying D.C. taxes,— he said. “And I can vote for a Member of Congress.—

Another promotion in the Barton office is Sarah Whiting. Earlier this month, Whiting, 26, moved from legislative assistant to senior legislative assistant.

A native of Richmond, Texas, Whiting has kept her Hill experience exclusive to her home state. Whiting worked for Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) for two years before moving to Barton’s office.

A 2005 graduate of Texas A&M University, Whiting said, “It’s always great to work for a fellow alum,— but she said she also enjoys being involved in the issues that come through Barton’s office.

As for Whiting’s giveaway that she is a Texan? She participated in rodeos as she was growing up.

Michael Weems is another veteran Barton staffer who was promoted to legislative director this month. Weems, 26, has worked for Barton for four years as a legislative correspondent, legislative assistant, and, more recently, senior legislative aide.

Weems hails from Austin, where he lived since the age of 2. One of the things he is more hesitant to share with his fellow staffers is his birthplace — Shreveport, La.

A 2005 graduate of Texas Tech University with a degree in political science, Weems said his journey to the Hill “is what he went to school for.— And if he weren’t in Washington, you might find him “working as a mountain guide— with a “huge beard.—

Another newly promoted Texan in the Barton office is Julieann Scarborough, who in the spring moved from staff assistant to legislative correspondent. Scarborough, 23, has been with Barton for nearly a year.

Scarborough’s hometown is Arlington, Texas. A 2007 graduate of the University of Texas, Scarborough said it’s a natural thing to poke fun at anyone from the other 49 states in the Barton office. “Of course we joke around, but at the end of the day we all get along,— she said.

Scarborough said “not actually living in D.C.— (she lives in Maryland) was her favorite thing about Washington. You might be more likely to find her watching her teams — the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Longhorns and Texas Rangers — than darting around the city on a given weekend.

Another new legislative correspondent to the Barton office is Emmanual Guillory. In June, Guillory, 25, was promoted from staff assistant.

Guillory also hails from the Lone Star State. A native of Lufkin, a small town in eastern Texas, Guillory also gained his undergraduate degree in his home state. In 2007, Guillory earned a psychology degree from Texas A&M University and went on to earn a master’s in higher education administration from Bowling Green State University.

Guillory says he appreciates having a boss who is a “conservative Member from Texas.— But Washington’s history has also made his first five months in D.C. pretty special.

Rounding out staff shuffles in the Barton office is a non-Texan, Colin Mayhood, who was recently hired as a staff assistant. Of all the new appointments in the Barton office, Mayhood, 22, is the only truly new person.

A native of Midlothian, Va., Mayhood endured a fair number of jokes in coming to work for the Texas office, including a threat of “taking a dramatic pay cut.— Barton’s Texas staffers quickly called Mayhood an “aspiring Texan,— so ultimately the threat proved hollow.

“By and large, the transition has been great,— Mayhood said. “My girlfriend is from Texas and there are a lot of values I share with the Congressman’s constituents that aren’t necessarily restricted to just one area of the country.—

Mayhood, a 2009 University of Virginia graduate, began as an intern for Barton in September. Mayhood said his own interest in energy and trade policy has made working on the Hill a good fit.

“When I learned of an opening in Congressman Barton’s office, the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, it felt like things were really falling into place here,— he said.

In the near future, it is unlikely that the Barton office will see another six-staffer shuffle. But a good lesson in the off chance you want to work for the Member: It doesn’t hurt to be a native Texan.

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