Hill Climbers: Hill Staffer Just Couldn’t Stay Away
Chris Fitzgerald sips a Starbucks coffee while perched at his small desk, tightly squeezed between two others in the back of Room 501 in the Cannon House Office Building. It’s 8:30 a.m., and Fitzgerald, who is first one in the office, is getting an early start on the day.
Fitzgerald started as communications director for Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) last week after a two-year hiatus from the Hill.
While the private sector has its perks — Fitzgerald’s old office was much bigger — he’s excited to be back on the Hill.
“Your life is not the size of your total office space,” he jokes.
The Connecticut native graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a political science degree in 1997. Fitzgerald said that although he didn’t grow up in a politically active family, he always held a strong interest, which led him to an internship with Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
His summer stint with the Connecticut Democrat eventually led to a full-time gig as staff assistant after college.
“I walked into my graduation on a Saturday and started work on Monday,” he said.
Just six weeks later, he was promoted to legislative correspondent and four years later to legislative assistant. Fitzgerald also took on speechwriting, a skill that he later used to land a senior staff position with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in fall 2001.
“Every speechwriter will you tell you their favorite speech was their 9/11 speech,” he said. “But it really was a proud, important moment to be involved in. And I think the speech I wrote hit all the right notes.”
Fitzgerald wanted to get onto the news side, so he took a job as press secretary with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in 2003.
After a year, he moved over to the House Appropriations Committee as a senior aide. He filled a number of roles during his three-year stint with the panel.
When the office of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi needed a political speechwriter, he couldn’t resist. He stayed with the California Democrat for two years.
In 2009, Fitzgerald began reflecting on his career and realized that he had worked on the Hill his entire life. Seeking a new opportunity, he left to work for a public affairs firm, but after two years, he came back to work with Polis.
“I missed working on the Hill, and I was looking to come back,” he said. “I saw something in this office and knew this was the place to be.”
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