Hill Climbers: Aide’s Job Focus Is Outside D.C.
Crystal Feldman has worked on the campaign trail. She has also tried her hand in the private sector and dabbled in the world of lobbying.
But the self-professed policy wonk and Georgetown University alumna had never actually worked on Capitol Hill, until now.
“I’ve always wanted to work here,” she said. “I’m one of the few people who hasn’t worked here before, but I’m getting my Hill time in now.”
The 25-year-old was recently hired as press secretary for the Republican staff of the House Natural Resources Committee. Although this is her first full-time gig on Capitol Hill, Feldman is no stranger to Washington.
After visiting Georgetown on a beautiful spring day, the North Carolina native decided to attend the university to major in biology and play soccer. But after taking an inspiring political science course her sophomore year, she quickly switched her major to government.
Feldman got her political start as an intern for Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and then in a stint for a government relations and public policy firm. When she graduated in 2007, she took a job as a legislative assistant for Jack O’Rourke, a lobbyist on Pennsylvania Avenue.
She worked on the administrative side, dealing with policies and financial service issues, but she said it was a useful experience for her future career in government.
“You saw how much work goes into the creation of a bill,” she said.
O’Rourke became a great mentor to Feldman. As the 2008 presidential elections drew near, he encouraged Feldman to become involved on the campaign side to pursue her interest in politics.
She took a job with the Republican National Committee as a researcher, but she wasn’t in Washington for long. The RNC sent Feldman to Alaska to help handle the press after the GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), tapped then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential pick.
Feldman and her co-workers spent most of their time conducting research and batting down rumors about Palin. The RNC group lovingly referred to themselves as “the Palin truth squad.”
After countless sleepless nights and three months living in a hotel, the election was over and Feldman returned to the mainland. She had a brief stint at a private media-consulting firm, where she helped with communications efforts for businesses.
In March 2010, Feldman hit the campaign trail. She worked as a communications director in Nevada, which was a stark contrast to her experience with the RNC.
“I had never been to a desert. Alaska is green and cold, and then you go to Nevada and it’s dry and hot,” she said. “They’re like polar opposites.”
Feldman then got involved in the California State Republican Party as a spokeswoman, handling several local and federal campaigns. She said learning to balance the interests of the party with the interests of a campaign was challenging but useful.
After the November elections, Feldman decided it was time to fulfill her desire to work on the Hill, especially because House Republicans won back the majority. She landed her post with the committee in March.
She isn’t the only press secretary in the office. The committee has two: one to focus on inside the Beltway and one to focus outside of it. Feldman’s responsibilities fall into the latter category.
“We really want to get our message out to the average Joe,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard because you get into the D.C.-centric mentality.”
But Feldman’s diverse experience in campaigns, state parties and lobbying has helped her think outside the box — and the Beltway — in her new role as press secretary.
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