Hill Climbers: Thornberry Staffers Ditch Business for Politics
It may be business as usual in the office of Rep. Mac Thornberry. But for two new hires and one recently promoted staffer, an aversion to a business career is what led them to Capitol Hill in the first place.
“The thing with working at a bank is that you sit behind a computer, crunch numbers, go home and come back to do it again,” said Staff Assistant Alexandra Igleheart, who interned for a private wealth company in 2009. “Here, you never know what you’re going to be doing every day, and that’s exciting.”
Igleheart was hired by the Texas Republican this January, along with policy adviser Mark Morehouse. In addition, Michael Seeds was promoted from legislative assistant to legislative director. All three staffers thought they might work in business but ended up in politics. Although the trio started in similar places, they came to the office on different paths.
Morehouse, 50, attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and earned a bachelor’s degree in history. After a five-year stint in the Army, the Montana native moved to New York to work as a bond salesman at Lehman Brothers and Deutsche Bank Securities. But Morehouse wanted to get more involved in national security and influence policy.
In 2000, he left his business career and moved to D.C. with his wife, Kathy. Morehouse got his footing on the Hill in the office of then-Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), where he eventually became legislative director. Meanwhile, Morehouse also earned his master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University.
But in 2001, while he was working in the Rayburn House Office Building, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, which was next to his old office building in New York. Morehouse lost several friends and co-workers in the attacks.
But the events of Sept. 11 only inspired Morehouse to continue work on national security issues. After six years with Kolbe, he moved over to the Pentagon to work on counterterrorism and Afghanistan issues.
Since starting with Thornberry in January, Morehouse has taken on a similar set of issues. He is responsible for advising the Congressman on all issues related to national security, foreign policy, homeland security and veterans.
Seeds also handles an array of issues related to his background. The 30-year-old staffer, who is responsible for agriculture, energy and environmental issues, grew up in the Congressman’s district and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in business administration. His family still lives in Texas and works in oil and gas production.
After graduation, Seeds decided to explore what D.C. had to offer. “There was a whole world I didn’t know existed,” Seeds said. “You have that sense of freedom like, ‘I could go anywhere right now.’”
He ended up securing an internship with Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) in November 2005. Seeds was then hired by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), where he stayed on for two years as staff assistant and then as legislative correspondent.
But perhaps the best thing that Seeds found on the Hill was his wife, Amber. The two were waiting in a busy line at the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria and had a brief moment to chat. He was so smitten with her that he immediately went back to his office and found her e-mail address so he could ask her on a date.
“When I got back up to my office, I realized I was still carrying the tray in my hand,” Seeds said with a laugh.
Igleheart, 23, started in January after completing an internship with Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) in 2010. The Texas native graduated from Southern Methodist University, where she earned a degree in finance but quickly realized it wasn’t what she wanted to do for a living.
The turning point came when Igleheart visited a family friend who works on the Hill. Seeing people run around offices and make calls to Senators and Congressmen inspired Igleheart to pursue a career path in government. And seeing the chaos that sometimes ensues didn’t hurt, either.
“There was a tea party protest on one side of the Capitol and an immigration protest on the other,” she said. “That’s the exciting atmosphere that I was looking for.”
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