Hill Climbers: Congressional Office Works Into Extra Innings

Posted June 11, 2010 at 2:40pm

The office of Rep. Kenny Marchant doesn’t even have enough people to fill a softball field, but that hasn’t stopped two recent hires and three promoted staffers from working like a dedicated squad heading into the 11th inning.

“We have a team atmosphere because we have such a small office,” said Ryan Moy, who was recently promoted to communications director. “We have to be prepared to do whatever my boss needs at any moment.”

Moy’s job for the Texas Republican includes everything from driving the Congressman around Washington, D.C., to informally coordinating office internships. His recent promotion has allowed him to implement a management strategy to oversee all communications operations. This includes sending out surveys and raking social media sites for constituent feedback.

“I get more time to think about things now,” Moy said.

The 28-year-old Baylor alumnus was previously a grant writer for a nonprofit in New York, but he knew that Capitol Hill was where his heart lay. After saving up for six months, Moy packed up his car and drove down the New Jersey Turnpike toward Washington, sans job. Marchant hired him nine days later.

[IMGCAP(1)]The staffer started as legislative coordinator with Marchant in June 2008 and was promoted to communications director this May. Moy, a Texas native, lives in Alexandria, Va., but that hasn’t stopped his avid participation in activities and sports around Capitol Hill. Moy belongs to the Capitol Hill Tennis Club, the Congressional Staff Golf Association and the Republican Communications Association.

“Capitol Hill Tennis is a social club, but I’m very competitive,” joked Moy, who has been playing tennis for 14 years. “But I still have a good attitude about it.”

Another recently promoted staffer in Marchant’s office shares Moy’s competitive nature when it comes to sports: Legislative Director Scott Cunningham has been known to throw his hat down on the field when he witnesses bad base-running in his Congressional softball league.

“I’m a different person in the office than on the field,” Cunningham said. “But bad base-running is my No. 1 pet peeve!”

Cunningham, 30, came to Marchant’s office in October 2007 as policy director but was promoted to legislative director this May. Prior stints in Washington include three summer internships with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), which led to a permanent position right after his graduation from Emory University. By the end of his five years with Sessions, Cunningham held the role of legislative assistant.

“It’s nice to have some differences in job duties, because having been on the Hill for 8 years, having variety is what keeps you fresh,” Cunningham said.

As policy director for Marchant, Cunningham was responsible for a basket of issues, including aviation, defense and immigration. With his promotion to legislative director, he now is responsible for coordinating legislation and making sure everything runs smoothly in the office.

The new legislative director, who has attended every Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game since 1999, previously filled the role of the Arizona Booze Kittens’ softball manager. But he relinquished his manager duties, saying, “It’s the most thankless job in Washington.”

But the boys aren’t the only ones in the office playing like champions. Donelle Harder, recently named online communications adviser, has been hard at work since she was hired in May.

Harder is in the midst of creating a new blog for Marchant, in addition to handling all social media sites and writing press releases. Her main objective is to spread information through the Web, since that is their main communication source with constituents.

“I like working in a team environment because I love being able to collaborate and run ideas across people in the office,” Harder said. “It’s really refreshing.”

Although Harder, also a Baylor graduate, is new to Capitol Hill, she has been in Washington since 2007, when she began work as a media relations specialist for the Pinkston Group. Her experience at the PR firm has proved valuable in her new position.

“Pinkston Group helped me transition here because I worked with the press, politicians and think tanks,” Harder said. “I learned the language and I learned what was appropriate.”

The other hire in Marchant’s office, Brian Werstler of North Canton, Ohio, draws on his previous Hill experience with former Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) to assist him in his new role as legislative assistant. Werstler handles the Congressman’s monetary portfolio, such as banking, financing, taxes and appropriations.

“Congressman Marchant is incredibly smart, especially on banking and financing issues,” Werstler said. “And — if you pay attention when no one else is listening — he is terribly funny.”

Werstler also has a knack for humor, explaining he came to Washington because “I just couldn’t get enough humidity elsewhere. No matter what I say in public, I love to sweat just from standing still.”

The 28-year-old keeps busy on the weekends with a part-time bartending gig at Alliance Tavern and a full-time gig helping his fiancee plan their September wedding. When he isn’t completely occupied by either of those, he can be found enjoying live music in D.C., volunteering at an animal rescue center in Rockville or watching his favorite sports teams from back home.

Finally, Maddie Kempf, 23, was promoted from staff assistant to legislative correspondent.

Kempf, who started as staff assistant with Marchant in August 2009 after her graduation from the University of Colorado at Boulder, is now responsible for drafting responses to constituents and arranging Capitol tours.

Although the staffers hail from different parts of the country, they all play for the same team, which is why it’s important that they cultivate office camaraderie.

“It’s enjoyable because it helps relieve the stresses of the day,” Harder said.

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