Hill Climbers: These Roads Lead to New York

Posted February 2, 2010 at 4:00pm

Jon Boughtin and Sean Magers share little more than a mutual party affiliation in their paths to their new jobs. But that’s the beauty of Washington, D.C.: Disparate paths can make for similar ends, so much so that both men now find themselves working for Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.).

[IMGCAP(1)]Last month, Boughtin, 26, was promoted to senior legislative assistant. He handles a variety of issues, focusing primarily on the military and veterans.

The job represents Boughtin’s third position with the freshman lawmaker. He was deputy communications director/legislative assistant for the Bill Owens for Congress campaign in New York’s 23rd district. After Owens was sworn in last November, Boughtin followed the lawmaker to Washington to serve as his communications director.

Magers, 26, replaces Boughtin as Owens’ communications director.

For nearly a year, Magers was press secretary to Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.). In the aftermath of Griffith’s party switch last December, Magers found himself caught off guard. “When I had heard about his decision, it certainly was a shock,— he said.

In the days after the announcement, Magers chose unemployment rather than staying with Griffith, as did most of the staff Griffith employed as a Democrat.

“It was a tough decision to leave,— Magers said. Even though he landed a new gig with Owens after a few weeks of job hunting, the Griffith episode is still raw for him. But the staffer doesn’t seek to settle scores with his former boss, preferring to put a positive spin on his new situation.

Magers said, “It just so happened that my previous boss’s party switch and Bill’s need for a new communications director had me looking for a job.—

Although Boughtin and Magers don’t share a common path to Owens’ office, the two staffers do share a strong background in Democratic politics.

As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, Boughtin participated in the College Democrats. After graduating in 2005, he moved to Washington to intern with then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.). For several months, Boughtin doubled as a Caribou Coffee barista and an intern, a system that worked well until Ford hired him.

Boughtin turned to campaign work after starting with Ford and in 2006 returned to Tennessee to work with the Harold Ford Jr. for U.S. Senate campaign.

[IMGCAP(2)]But as the 2006 cycle wound down, Boughtin returned to D.C. for a job as a political assistant with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He then returned to the Hill with Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), where he was hired as a legislative assistant. Boughtin would rise to the position of deputy communications director.

Last year, a special election in New York made Boughtin itch for a return to the campaign field. He is a native of Rochester, N.Y., a close neighbor to Owens’ district. After nearly 10 years in Tennessee politics, Boughtin said he thought a return home would be fun.

After Owens won, it was a no-brainer for Boughtin to head back to the Hill with the lawmaker.

If you happen to overhear Owens reference the staffer, it’s likely by his nickname, “Bowtie.— “When I worked at the DCCC, I got the nickname for no other reason than that someone there had trouble pronouncing my last name,— Boughtin said.

Like Boughtin, Magers brings a background in Democratic campaigns to Capitol Hill. All of Magers’ prior work stretches back to Alabama, his home state.

After graduating from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2006, Magers headed to work in the private sector at a software firm. But the electoral process would prompt his entrance into politics.

Magers got his start working as a volunteer for Griffith’s 2006 campaign for state Senate. Shortly after Griffith announced his run for Congress in 2008, Magers joined as a campaign staffer.

When Griffith won in 2008, the chance to come to Washington was something Magers said he could not pass up.

Even though Magers switched offices after just a year with Griffith, he hasn’t soured on politics: “I have been blessed with two great bosses,— he said.

Now in his fourth week with Owens, Magers said the biggest hurdle is geography. “It’s learning a whole new area of the country for me,— he said.

Because Magers hasn’t cooled to Capitol Hill, chances are that he’ll be able to indulge in his Washington pastimes for a while longer. That means going to indie concerts in Columbia Heights and watching the Los Angeles Dodgers whenever the team is in town to play the Nationals.

Submit news of hires and promotions on Capitol Hill to Hill Climbers here.