Hill Climbers: In the Details

Posted December 4, 2009 at 3:58pm

Sometimes it’s the little things that count the most. Although Washington, D.C., maintains a certain reputation for cynicism, some people still appreciate the details. Two such staffers can be found in Rep. Paul Hodes’ (D-N.H.) press group. The Congressman’s new press secretary and communications director both feel that their time in government is made meaningful from just that — the little things.

[IMGCAP(1)]Aaron Rottenstein joined Hodes as communications director last month. Rottenstein, 24, came from the Joint Economic Committee, where he was most recently press secretary.

In his three years in Washington, Rottenstein said, the everyday experiences on the job have confirmed his choice to work in public service. While still with the JEC in 2008, Rottenstein heard the testimony of Danielle Foltz, a mother struggling to afford prescription drugs for her son. “Through her personal blog she wrote at length about [how] excited she was to be able to speak to the men and women of our Congress,— Rottenstein said in an e-mail. “Her testimony was just a very poignant example of an incredibly important issue. … I think it’s the little examples that remind you why you’re here.—

Rottenstein is a native of Tucson, Ariz., and a 2007 graduate of the University of Arizona, which is in his

hometown. While in college, the staffer studied political science.

[IMGCAP(2)]After graduating from Arizona, Rottenstein headed to D.C. for his first taste of Capitol Hill, which came through an internship with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Rottenstein’s time as an intern proved to be fruitful, as he was able to make connections within the JEC, of which Schumer is vice chairman.

Rottenstein started as deputy press secretary with the JEC in January 2008. After about a year as deputy press secretary, Rottenstein was promoted to press secretary, a position he held for eight months before moving to Hodes’ office.

Rottenstein’s move to a personal office was a matter of coming across the right opening. “The Congressman has been a leader on a number of issues and I knew that I wanted to work for him when the opportunity presented itself,— Rottenstein said.

Rottenstein said his duties include overseeing and implementing communications strategy and media relations.

Even as Hodes runs for the open New Hampshire Senate seat held by Sen. Judd Gregg (R), Rottenstein said the lawmaker’s campaign further confirmed his own career choice. “The race is really exciting and underscores the importance of the work he is doing here,— Rottenstein said. “He’s running for higher office on the accomplishments he is making here.—

Outside of work, Rottenstein is all about the Wildcats — of the athletic variety that hail from his alma mater. “I try to watch as many games as I can, but I don’t as much as I’d like to,— Rottenstein said. “It’s hard with the time difference.—

Also taking on new duties for Hodes is Matt House, 23, who was recently promoted to press secretary. As press secretary, House’s duties primarily involve press releases, media communication and managing Hodes’ Web site and e-communications.

This job represents House’s fourth position with the lawmaker.

While a senior in college in 2007, House interned for Hodes. House had followed Hodes’ first successful run for office in 2006 and said he knew he wanted to intern for the lawmaker after that election.

Fortunately for House, that internship would pay off with a job. House said he jumped at a staff assistant opening in Hodes’ office after graduating from Hamilton College in 2008. After several months, House was promoted to office manager/press assistant, the position he held immediately before becoming press secretary.

House echoes his colleague’s sentiments on how the little things make life on Capitol Hill the most worthwhile. At the 2008 passing of Michelle’s Law — legislation extending health insurance coverage to dependent college students who take a medical leave of absence — the staffer had the opportunity to sit next to the mother of the late Michelle Morse, for whom the law was named.

“Michelle was diagnosed with colon cancer during college, and her doctors advised her to take a leave of absence to battle the disease,— House said in an e-mail. “Michelle had to stay in school in order to keep her insurance coverage and died shortly after graduating. Michelle’s mom worked with Congressman Hodes, and he wrote the bill to prevent insurance companies from forcing families to make the choice Michelle’s had to make. I was sitting with Michelle’s mother in the gallery when it passed the House.—

House is a native of Keene, N.H., one of the largest towns in Hodes’ district.

As a native of the Granite State, House has had his fair share of contact with presidential primary campaigns. In the 2008 cycle, House even got involved: “I did a little bit of work on [Joseph] Biden’s campaign in weeks leading up to the vote.—

But presidential campaigns don’t last forever, so nowadays when the staffer goes back home — as he will do over the holiday season — it will be to visit family and ski.

When in Washington, the staffer finds athletic satisfaction other ways. House said he gets his sports fix by attending “high-quality— Major League Baseball games, such as when the Red Sox come to town to play the Nationals.

The staffer’s other indulgences include Capitals’ games, golfing and cooking. And when House does decide to cook, he said he tends to be “pretty good at it.—

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