Hill Climbers: For Pelosi Aide, Tax Is Her Trade

Posted June 18, 2010 at 5:29pm

Taxes are everywhere in our lives, regardless of whether we realize it. They dictate spending, guide political debate and even pop up in Beatles’ classics and on local license plates. But for Stacey Rolland, taxes are more than just one of the certainties in life; they have become her full-time career.

[IMGCAP(1)]”For every population you could care about, there’s a provision in the tax code,” said Rolland, who was recently hired as policy adviser on tax issues for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “That’s why I love taxes. Taxes touch everyone.”

The 32-year-old Uxbridge, Mass., native started her position with the California Democrat in June. But she admitted that “falling in love with tax policy was actually unexpected.”

Rolland received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and women’s studies from Smith College in 2000. The all-female Massachusetts school fostered her love for sociology, but Rolland said she wasn’t sure at first what she wanted to do with her degree.

It wasn’t until she took a post-graduation policy fellowship with the National Women’s Law Center that she found an outlet to channel her passion for social justice. After moving to Washington, the center assigned her to work on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

In November of that year, however, it “became clear that TANF reauthorization wasn’t going to be moving as quickly given the election of George W. Bush.” Rolland was reassigned to work on tax issues.

“I was mortified at first,” said Rolland, who now specializes in low-income tax credits. “But I loved that nexus of social justice and economic policy.”

Rolland then attended law school at the University of California at Los Angeles. After three years, she graduated with a concentration in public interest law and critical race studies.

“The biggest benefit of having a law degree is knowing how to anticipate all sides” of a debate, Rolland said.

[IMGCAP(2)]In 2005, she began working as a policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But when a position as tax counsel opened up with Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Rolland knew she needed to exploit the opportunity.

“The Hill is absolutely where I wanted to work,” she said. “It was a great way to get to know people and what was going on.”

Rolland left in 2009 to work for the Office of Legislative Affairs in the Department of Treasury as a special assistant.

“The most important thing I learned was being a good liaison and knowing what the stakeholders want,” Rolland said.

Rolland was finally able to take the skills that she cultivated at her previous positions and put them to work in the big leagues.

On June 7, she moved over to become a policy adviser for Pelosi.

“I don’t know what wouldn’t attract someone to this office,” Rolland said. “It’s the gold standard.”

Rolland describes her job as a liaison between the Speaker and the House Ways and Means Committee.

“The most challenging part has been acclimating myself to the basement of the Capitol again,” Rolland joked. “But everyone in the office has been incredibly warm and patient.”

Don’t be fooled: Rolland’s life isn’t completely consumed by taxes. She enjoys running, reading and gardening — despite being on the seventh floor of her Columbia Heights apartment building.

And yet somehow, she still finds herself innately drawn to the tax world, especially in her participation with the Tax Coalition group (or “Tax Chicks,” as Rolland calls it). The group provides a monthly forum for women in the industry to have lunches, listen to speakers and converse with one another.

“The tax world for women has grown,” Rolland said. “It’s always really cool to see the room packed with women who work on what had once been a very male-dominated field.”

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