Natasha Hammond knows the feeling of your whole world changing.
“Oh my gosh. Well actually, my heart just dropped and I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Hammond, former Speaker John A. Boehner’s assistant for policy, recalled her reaction to the news of his retirement.
The staffs of the late Democratic Rep. Mark Takai of Hawaii and former Republican Rep. Edward Whitfield of Kentucky recently experienced similar feelings.
Whitfield announced a year ago that he would retire at the end of this term. The congressman was under a cloud of an ethics investigation into reports that he coordinated with his lobbyist wife, Constance Harriman Whitfield, to advance her work. But he had a change of heart and announced on Aug. 31 that he would leave office effective last Tuesday.
Under House Rules, the House Clerk manages the congressional office when a member dies, resigns or is expelled in any other form.
Whitfield and Takai’s staffers remain on the payroll under the supervision of the clerk in order to assist constituents in situations like casework, pending legislation and other general services.
District offices and the D.C. office are open daily in order to focus on constituent services.
Boehner announced his retirement in September 2015 and gave up the gavel and his House seat about a month later.
Hammond said she was on the fourth floor of the Capitol with two co-workers, gathered in the kitchen and speculating why their office manager had called an all-staff meeting.
“I was trying to stay positive thinking maybe it was a meeting talking about maybe a potential shutdown of the government. But, we all just kind of knew,” she said.
Then, before the meeting could begin, came the email informing them that the speaker had told the conference he was retiring.
“I think everyone just went to their offices and shut their doors,” she said. “Whether or not they were making calls, getting upset behind closed doors — I did the same thing.”
Hammond is now an adviser in Squire Patton Boggs’ public policy practice.