Hill Climbers: After the Campaign

Posted December 15, 2009 at 3:46pm

Presidential campaigns can have powerful reverberations. For example, look at the staff of Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). Two changes within the Congresswoman’s staff can be directly traced to the 2008 presidential election.

[IMGCAP(1)]Earlier this month, Clifton Williams was promoted from staff assistant to legislative correspondent. Williams, 25, came to the office in January by way of the Obama campaign.

Williams worked as a field organizer for Obama in his hometown of Cleveland.

“Working with the campaign you got to interact with so many people,— Williams said. “And one of the big things with field organizer is that wherever you went, you had to tell your story. I think going all these different places and telling my story and hearing other people’s stories made me see there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed with the country.—

The campaign’s theme of change proved infectious for Williams, and after the election, he wanted to head to Washington to see firsthand what would be happening under the new president. Added to that was Williams’ long-held desire to work in public policy and his acceptance into graduate schools in the District.

Williams’ motivations for moving to Washington lined up with Fudge, who now represents part of Cleveland. Fudge was most recently mayor of Warrensville Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, before being elected to Congress in November 2008 after the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D).

But the staffer and Fudge share more than a home state. While still in college, Williams’ father, a Cleveland pastor, set up a mock job interview between Fudge and Williams.

[IMGCAP(2)]“I remember being very nervous about the interview since it was my first professional interview,— Williams said. “Little did I know that a few years later I would be sitting in her Congressional office less than a mile away from her office as mayor interviewing to become a member of her D.C. staff.—

Williams is a 2006 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and earned degrees in religion and black world studies. After college, Williams worked as a legislative aide to Ohio House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty (D). He followed that with a stint as a public policy fellow for then-Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann (D).

The staffer is currently in pursuit of a master’s degree in public administration from American University and is expected to graduate in 2011.

Williams is also a member of Congressional Black Associates, a nonpartisan professional support group on the Hill.

The legacy of the Obama campaign recently resulted in another change in the Fudge office. Casey Miller was hired earlier this month as a legislative assistant.

Miller, 23, is a 2009 graduate of Pennsylvania State University. During the fall semester of her senior year, Miller volunteered for the Obama campaign and also served as vice president of Penn State Students for Barack Obama.

“I was always interested in politics but never saw myself as an activist until I got involved in the Obama campaign,— she said. “I walked in the office one day when I had a few hours to spare during the summer of ’08 and I guess I kind of never left. I got more and more involved, and it turned into a calling. I dropped most of my classes, all but two. I kind of put school on hold until after the election.—

The experience proved to have a formidable influence on Miller’s professional pursuits. Even after the campaign finished, Miller found it difficult to plug back into her coursework and began to wish she were in Washington working on the issues discussed in the campaign.

“I touched base with some of the people I knew on in D.C., and they told me I needed to start interning on Capitol Hill immediately after graduation,— Miller said.

And despite her parents’ unease, Miller headed to Washington for the classic path to a job on the Hill — an unpaid internship. Miller first found an internship in the office of Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.). After the internship ended, Miller moved to the House Science and Technology Committee, where she interned up until moving to the Fudge office.

“The day I got my job offer was my six-month anniversary of being a Hill intern,— she said. “Six months was the timeline that I gave myself for permanent employment on the Hill, and that was in the back of my head all day. I was waiting to hear back from Congresswoman Fudge’s office at the time, and all I could do was pray. At the end of the day, around 6 p.m., I heard back that I got the job.—

Miller is tasked with handling the Congresswoman’s Science and Technology Committee work, which comes as no surprise given the staffer’s bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Miller will handle energy and environment issues.

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