Hill Climbers: A Youthful State of Mind

Posted November 20, 2009 at 4:02pm

If the average age in the House is 55, then Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is a few years on the younger side at 44. Although a relatively young age isn’t a requirement to be on the freshman’s staff, Scalise’s new staffers happen to be younger than most.

[IMGCAP(1)]In August, Stephen Bell, 22, began as a press assistant. Bell handles traditional duties such as writing press releases and media memos, but his position is a bit of a hybrid. Bell also serves as a legislative assistant on Second Amendment and census issues. The portfolio fits Bell well, since he holds a membership with the National Rifle Association.

“I wouldn’t call myself a gun nut, but it’s something that I grew up with,— Bell said. “It’s an extended lifestyle and something that I’ve been ingrained with.—

Bell got the political bug back in college while interning in Washington. In the summer of 2007, he interned with Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.). Not wanting to miss a beat, the following summer he interned in the television studio at the Republican National Committee headquarters.

“I interned because I wanted to get an idea if I wanted to make the leap into politics,— he said. “I wasn’t sure if politics was the route I wanted to take, but being a fly on the wall helped to confirm that direction.—

After graduating from the University of Missouri this May, Bell was ready to go full time. But a desired job didn’t come immediately. Over the summer, Bell took a short-term internship with Scalise, a position that helped him get a foot in the door.

Before leaving college, Bell honed his communications skills while studying convergence journalism, a type of reporting that combines video, audio, print and photography. Now, Bell puts his degree to good use in editing Scalise’s YouTube page.

[IMGCAP(2)]Bell was born in Slidell, La., and still considers that area home with many extended family members living there. Because of his dad’s job at Boeing, Bell hopped around internationally for a good part of his childhood, living as far away as Finland and England.

Also new to the Scalise staff is Kramer Schmidt, who was hired as a legislative correspondent in September. Schmidt, 23, covers budgetary and fiscal issues for the lawmaker, in addition to serving as the staff liaison to the Republican Study Committee, of which Scalise is a member.

Schmidt also got his first taste of Capitol Hill while in college. In 2007, Schmidt interned for then-Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.). During that internship, Schmidt had a brush with disaster.

“One day, I was taking a group to the Rayburn Room to meet Congressman Jindal,— Schmidt said. “I rounded a corner, in a hurry to make the meeting on time, and nearly slammed right into Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi as she turned the same corner. We both stopped in our tracks, and I hurriedly jumped out of the way to not risk getting pummeled by Secret Service. It was the typical intern moment.—

Schmidt is a native of Covington, La., a town located in Scalise’s district. The Pelican State worked to Schmidt’s advantage in landing his first job on the Hill. After graduating from Tulane University this spring, Schmidt held a brief stint as mailroom staff assistant in Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) office. From there, it was a natural progression to join the Scalise staff.

“Congressman Scalise is a young, active new Member,— he said. “Our entire staff feeds off of his energy. He has a strong understanding of Southeast Louisiana’s biggest challenges as we work to revitalize our region.—

For Schmidt, the state of Louisiana is never is too far from his mind. Not only has the staffer spent nearly all of his life there, but he is the oldest sibling to a sister and four brothers.

“It seemed like every Thanksgiving when I was a teenager my dad would raise a glass and let out a ‘ding, ding, ding’ and say that we were going to have a new sibling,— Schmidt said. “In fact, part of the reason I stayed in Louisiana in college was to be close to my younger brothers.—

Rounding out the recent additions to the Scalise office is Emily Wauford, who was hired as a staff assistant in October. Wauford, 22, covers immigration and agricultural issues for the Congressman in addition to assisting with various office tasks.

Before joining Scalise, Wauford interned in the office of her hometown Congressman, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Wauford hails from Midlothian, a town southwest of Richmond.

Wauford is a 2009 graduate from the University of Notre Dame, where she studied political science and romantic languages. During her four years in college, Wauford ran track and was elected captain of the team during her senior year.

“I knew how to balance academics and athletics because it was something that I had done throughout high school,— she said. “Running was already my niche by college.—

Wauford’s entry into the Hill’s work force comes with a healthy dose of enthusiasm.

“When our communications director, Luke, called me after my interview, Congressman Scalise was on the line to offer me the job. I was so happy that I had a hard time maintaining my composure on the phone.—

That excitement hasn’t diminished with time. Even after several weeks in her new job, Wauford gushes with enthusiasm over her new position.

“I am so lucky to be here,— Wauford said. “I like being here and am so happy. Everyone is team-oriented, focused on the staff and very supportive.—

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