Hill Climbers: Restless Bond Staffer Settles Into Next Stage

Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:27pm

Bret Funk talks about having “career ADD,” which is a pretty accurate description of his professional life. In less than two years, Funk, 28, has held four positions with Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), including intern, staff assistant, systems administrator and, as of this month, deputy press secretary. In addition to moving over to the press side, Funk will continue to juggle the office information technology responsibilities.

[IMGCAP(1)]But Capitol Hill is just Funk’s second career itineration. At age 18, and fresh out of high school, Funk left his hometown of Machens, Mo., to enlist in the Navy. Life in the military would make Funk an aviation electrician. He would go onto work on F-14s on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

In 2003, that job would place Funk right in the middle of history, in more ways than one. “When George Bush landed on the aircraft carrier and declared, ‘Mission accomplished,’ I was there,” Funk said. “That was my carrier. I was out for 286 days, out at sea, and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

That 286-day mission was one of the longest cruises ever by a military vessel.

After four years of enlisted life, Funk wasn’t quite ready to leave the military, but he was ready to gain a college degree, so he headed to flight school with the intention of rejoining the military as a fighter pilot. In 2008, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Missouri. Funk holds ratings in private, instrumental and commercial aviation.

But even with an aviation degree under his belt, Funk’s plan fell apart: “I like flying, but after the military, I really had a sense of public service to my country and wanted to give back,” he said. “I started really getting into politics and thought to myself, ‘I might be able to do more in Washington.'”

So what was the actual spark that made him change from planes to politics? Funk said the military certainly had something to do with it, but the 2008 presidential election was another part, too. Other factors in the decision included a declining use of manned aircraft by the military along with a personal tie: Funk’s father, Brad Funk, serves as an associate circuit judge in Missouri.

Armed with the desire to work in politics, Funk headed to the Bond office in the summer of 2008 for a press internship. “I pretty much put everything in my car and drove down to D.C.,” he said.

After five months as an intern, Funk said he had some good luck. The Bond office looked favorably on Funk’s intern work and his military service. He earned numerous distinctions while in the military, including the Navy Achievement Medal.

Bond’s own son, Sam, is a Marine Corps officer and Iraq veteran.

Funk’s leap to the press side of Capitol Hill presents the staffer with new challenges, but he takes them in stride. “People are a lot more fun to deal with than computers,” Funk said with a laugh. “Actually, most of my computer problems are human problems, but I don’t tell them that. Same thing with press, I just let them know it was the computer stuff.”

And as Bond heads into his final year in office, Funk said working in a consolidating office has its advantages, including the ability of remaining staff to try out positions that they wouldn’t normally work in. For him, that means jumping to communications having no prior background in press.

But Funk doesn’t plan on slowing down even while working for a retiring Member. He said he might extend his career confusion by joining the Foreign Service or enrolling in law school. “I’m staying with the Senator until the end,” he said. “After this, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but I know it will be serving my country in some capacity. The problem is, I’m now doing exactly what I want to do.”

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