Bond Office ‘Like Coming Home’

New Legislative Correspondents Enjoy the Camaraderie of Missouri Link

Posted September 17, 2010 at 2:56pm

Few things in life are better than those that remind you of home. It can be a good, home-cooked meal or the sound of a familiar twang. But for two new staffers in the office of Sen. Kit Bond, it’s simply going to work every day.

“One thing I love about this office is that it’s like coming home, because about 90 percent of the staffers are from Missouri,” said Lauren Weidmaier, 22. “There’s just a different sense of manner in people. It’s very welcoming and hospitable.”

Mary Catherine Ott agreed. “It’s nice to come here and have people know what you’re talking about,” the 23-year-old said. “When I went to Providence, there were only two people from Missouri, and they were two years older than me.”
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The women are recent college graduates hired this summer to fulfill legislative correspondent roles until the Missouri Republican retires in November. Although they decided to come to Washington during a high school leadership conference, each came to the Hill on different paths.

“I was getting so nervous at the very end of the school year, because I knew I wanted to stay in D.C.,” said Weidmaier, who attended George Washington University and majored in political science. “I graduated in May and I was like, ‘Please mom and dad, let me stay in D.C., and I promise I’ll find a job.'”

The St. Joseph, Mo., native kept her promise to her parents and found a job a month after graduation. But it didn’t necessarily come easily; Weidmaier had already completed several internships during her time at GWU, including one with the White House in the spring of 2007.

“It wasn’t what I expected in some ways, but it really gave me a new picture of what the White House is like,” she said. “I worked in greetings and presidential correspondence, so I got to work more with ceremonial aspects and answer phone calls from hundreds of thousands of constituents.”

She returned to Missouri for the summer and worked for the district office of Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), drawing on her experience in the White House. But when it was time to return to school, Weidmaier nabbed a spot in Graves’ Washington office, where she continued to intern for a year.

“I was kind of the girl that just lingered in the office, even when we had the rotating door of interns every semester,” she said.

Her interest in child advocacy and a fellowship working for the Department of Education fed her desire to pursue a law degree in order to work on education policy. But she wanted to get her footing on the Hill first, even if that meant a period of nerves and uncertainty.

“It was a month full of filling out job applications for ten hours a day and showing up at random events to network. By the end, I just went out and started cold introducing myself to a lot of people,” Weidmaier said. “I was actually offered an internship in education policy in June, but then our deputy chief of staff called and told me there was an opening here.

“I told her I had to think about it,” she added. “But the next day, I accepted. And I couldn’t be more happy with my decision.”

Ott had an inkling she would be working for Bond’s office. The St. Louis native majored in political science at Providence College, and had a summer internship in Bond’s district office in 2007.

“It was definitely different being in D.C. than St. Louis, because you deal more with policy work here,” she said. “But when you’re dealing with constituents, whether it’s answering the phones or giving tours, you’re still in touch with a lot of local people, so you’re getting a good feel for the grass roots in both places.”

Ott’s interest in politics regularly manifested itself while she was in college. She worked on the Bush and McCain presidential campaigns and was a legislative intern with the International Institute of Rhode Island. But when she wasn’t thinking about politics, she was focused on a different kind of sport.

“I played field hockey in college, which was basically like a full-time job for me,” she said. “We’d have practices, we’d have lifting and we’d have road trips pretty much every weekend in the fall.

“Providence is playing Georgetown here in the end of October, so I’m definitely going to that game to support my old team,” she added. “And I’m trying to save some money to fly out for alumni weekend.”

Ott only had one week at home after graduating before she moved to Washington, and had even less time to get accustomed to the city before she started her new job. Ott joked that she only had “one little bus mix-up,” but has since gotten a grasp of the city’s transportation system.

Weidmaier and Ott have embraced their new job duties, which include drafting correspondence on legislative issues and conducting the less-than-glamorous Capitol tours most newbie staffers are burdened with.

“I try to give tourists the sights and sounds of D.C., but as a newcomer myself, that can be hard when I am still learning the sights and sounds,” Ott said with a laugh. “Luckily, we have lists and files we can go through, and help from the previous tour guides. It was hard starting during the height of tourism season, but I think I got the hang of it now.”

Bond might be headed towards the end of his political career, but these new staffers are just getting started.

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