Hill Climbers: World Traveler Settles In on the Hill
Up until now, Natasha Mayer’s professional life consisted of crisscrossing the globe, spending time in areas that many of us see only on TV or a map.
The recently promoted communications director for Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Mayer seems to have found a place to land.
Born in Moscow, Mayer was 14 months old when her family immigrated to the United States in 1979 and took up residence in suburban Detroit. That voyage proved a precursor.
She became politically aware after growing up in a home sympathetic to President Ronald Reagan and the Republican brand of the 1980s. But her interest in media and communications was sparked by the tube.
To learn English, Mayer relied on some of the best teachers her newfound country had to offer: Mister Rogers and Big Bird.
“TV was my friend,” Mayer said.
By the time she reached college, it was a foregone conclusion that her career would have a media or communications tilt.
During the mid-1990s, she ditched the Midwestern suburbs for the bright lights of the Empire State, earning a bachelor’s in fine arts with an emphasis in film and TV from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
After working behind the scenes on the independent film classic “Drunks,” starring Richard Lewis and Faye Dunaway, Mayer trekked to Washington, D.C., where her consulting expertise and media savvy led to her working with prime ministers, overseas political candidates and foreign media outlets aiming to modernize theiroperations. To do all of the above required extensive travel.
In 2006, she was working as a producer for Fox News in D.C. when she was hired by the right-leaning Marsh Copsey & Associates. Her tenure there led to a two-year stay in northern Iraq and a one-year stay in the West Bank.
While in Kurdistan, Mayer’s body of work included reporting to Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Governmenton public relations projects. Barzani served in the post from 2006 to 2009 before being reinstalled earlier this spring.
When Mayer was a producer and project manager for Zagros TV, her research and focus group efforts lead to its first-ever American-styled sitcom in 2008. The show, “Radio Citadel,” aimed to use slapstick storylines to reach beyond the pervasive tribal mentality in the northern Kurdish region.
Up next was a year in Ramallah. Mayer collaborated with the station manager of Wattan TV on a State Department-backed effort to promote an independent media in the Palestinian territories.
After a brief return to D.C. in 2010 as an independent media consultant, Mayer resumed her life abroad in 2011 by becoming director of public relations for SCL Elections, a London-based political consulting firm. Her tenure at SCL had her managing parliamentary campaigns in the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia and included stops in Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and St. Vincent.
Finding a Home on the Hill
Mayer’s father’s death last summer led to her septuagenarian mother moving into her Virginia home. In between her duties in the Caribbean and fighting off dengue fever, Mayer recognized that distance was preventing her from fully tending to her mother’s needs. And a life on the run had also left her wanting to pack her bags and come home.
“I think a lot of times when you start working overseas, you tend to be running away. And I thought that it was time to stop running away,” she said.
Still working for SCL Elections, she returned to D.C. last August and floated her résumé to a friend.
She had never seen the legislative process up close, but Capitol Hill seemed like an attractive option.
When Reichert’s office came calling, she responded. A face-to-face meeting with the Washington state lawmaker ended with a job offer and a January start date.
She is still trying to wrap her arms around the ins and outs of Capitol Hill. “It’s a huge learning curve for me,” she said.
And while her D.C. friends warned that working on the Hill might not match the excitement of her past global expeditions, Mayer discovered that being at the center of the legislative world is as good a place to be as Iraq or the Caribbean.
“I think to be right in the thick of it is just fascinating,” Mayer said.
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