Hill Climbers: Staffers Enjoy Their Cowboy Boots Connection

Posted April 20, 2010 at 4:05pm

Even though Yonnick Hammond and David Forrest Lasseter have divergent paths to the office of Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), they make a good pair of new staffers.

[IMGCAP(1)]For starters, Hammond, 24, and Lasseter, 32, have similar senses of fashion: Both men wear cowboy boots on the job.

“We both come from different walks of life, but we both wear boots, which I think is awesome,” said Hammond, who was recently hired as a legislative correspondent. “When I first saw [Lasseter], I said, ‘That’s awesome.’ … There’s no more comfortable piece of footwear you’ll ever have, in my opinion.”

Lasseter echoed his fellow staffer’s preference: “I have about five or six pairs and one that I’ve had since I was like 14 and still wear,” said Lasseter, who joined Miller this month as a military legislative assistant. “A lot of people in the South wear them. It’s maybe a cultural thing. I’ve just worn them for years and they last forever and you can wear them with anything and they’re easy to put on.”

The two staffers started on the same day, April 1, and are wont to trade friendly shots at each other.

“I got the good BlackBerry,” Hammond said while letting out a laugh. “He got the bad one.”

“That is true,” Lasseter said. “I got an old, cracked one and he got a new one.”

In terms of how they got to Capitol Hill, though, each staffer tells a different story.

Hammond was interested in politics as a high school student. His first stint in the political world came with a college internship in the district office of Rep. Henry Brown (R-S.C.).

The Charleston native obviously left a good impression on Brown. Shortly after Hammond graduated from Charleston Southern University in 2006 — where he majored in religion and political science — Brown asked Hammond to join his staff as a legislative correspondent.

[IMGCAP(2)]Brown “just called me up and asked me if I wanted to come up to the majors here in Washington,” Hammond said. “That was something that I just couldn’t pass up. That kind of really started my time here in Washington and really put me on the path to politics.”

After nearly a year with Brown, the 2008 elections prompted Hammond to change gears. In the fall of 2007, Hammond left the Hill to work as a regional field director for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s (R) campaign.

“It was another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hammond said. “He was a candidate that I believed in. … I guess I caught the bug at that point for working campaigns.” That bug followed Hammond for three years.

After the Giuliani campaign wound down, Hammond joined the Republican National Committee as a member of the National Victory Program. Hammond would stay with the RNC for a year, seeing the completion of the 2008 Republican presidential primary and the general election.

“I loved it at the RNC. It was a great time, got to learn a lot, had a great crew of people to work with, but then the whole chairman election happened,” Hammond said.

After Michael Steele’s election to the RNC chairmanship in early 2009, Hammond found himself without a job. But he didn’t have to wait long for a new opportunity to spring up, this time with the Republican Party of Virginia as its absentee ballot director.

“It was my first time running a statewide program, so in that regard it was new and exciting,” Hammond said. “We had a great candidate: Bob McDonnell, Bobby Mac. … We got a win after those hard-fought 2008 elections. … It was truly awesome, just looking at places we won, places we never thought we could win, winning places up in Northern Virginia.”

With a win behind him, Hammond headed west to work as new media director for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R-Texas) failed gubernatorial campaign.

“After that, I was just looking for the next thing,” he said. “I had a great opportunity to work with Congressman Miller on his staff and help do some good things in this office. After meeting some of the staff, it would have been foolish for me to turn down.”

The staffer said it feels great to be back in the city where he started his professional career, even though he’s still prone to getting lost in Rayburn House Office Building. Hammond covers health care, housing, Social Security and small business for Miller.

Lasseter’s lead-up to Capitol Hill bears little resemblance to his fellow staffer’s approach. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2000 — where he studied history and ran on the track and cross-country teams — Lasseter’s first professional stint came as a legislative correspondent with the Alabama staff of Sen. Richard Shelby (R).

Lasseter is a native of Columbus, Ga., near the Alabama border.

Lasseter’s life path changed two years out of college. In 2002, Lasseter received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

“After Sept. 11, I knew that I would join the military,” he said. “My dad and granddad were both career Army officers. I had always had an initial plan that I would do the military thing, or at least a desire. … I decided on the Marines because they’re the best.”

Between receiving his officer commission and military service, Lasseter earned his juris doctor degree. The staffer is a 2005 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law.

During four years of active-duty service, Lasseter served three deployments in the Iraq War. The staffer’s first deployment came with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines in the lead-up to the 2007 “surge.” Lasseter helped coordinate logistics and combat support in the Anbar province.

Lasseter followed his first stint in Iraq with a brief deployment at the end of 2007 and another full deployment at the beginning of 2008. In his final deployment, Lasseter served with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines in Al Qa’im and Rawah, Iraq.

“The number of attacks in the last deployment was virtually nonexistent,” Lasseter said. “After the surge, it was pretty neat to see the transition. … I first got there at the beginning of the surge and stayed through the height of daily number of attacks and then left as that peak started going down. When I went back on my second full deployment, there was nothing going on. We were basically moving out of closing bases. … It was incredible to see the change. It made you understand that the surge was the right thing to do and that the Iraqi people understood our purpose for being there.”

After leaving active duty in 2009 — the staffer is still a reservist — Lasseter joined the Office of Legislative Affairs at the Pentagon, where he worked until joining the Miller office.

“I met the Congressman last September and talked about potentially maybe coming on,” Lasseter said. “We saw each other again in early February, so they said, ‘Hey, still looking?’ This is obviously an awesome opportunity. The Marine Corps said I could cut my orders and get out.”

Now with just three weeks on Capitol Hill, Lasseter said he’s getting using to the “crawling” legislative pace.

“I’m getting there,” he said. “There’s obviously a difference between the Marine Corps and a legislative office, but it’s a good difference. Coming at 8:30 to 9 a.m. as opposed to 6 or 6:30 a.m. is certainly a lot better.”

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