Once a month, a group of Mormon staffers make it a point to have lunch together on Capitol Hill.
Like other staffer groups, the Latter-day Saints Staff Association is based around building a network. But this one is connected by faith.
“I think it’s helpful for them, just among the folks that are members of the church, it’s a cultural affinity,” said co-chairman Gordon Larsen, legislative director for Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart. “You know that you can count on people that have sort of similar experiences and backgrounds that are going to help you find the position that you’re looking for or even just get together and chat.”
Stewart, a Mormon, is the group’s congressional sponsor.
“Since there are a lot of LDS staff from the Utah delegation, we thought it would make sense to have a Utah member sponsoring it,” said Larsen, 34.
Co-chairman Ryan Martin, 40, said those who have been on the Hill for a while “have a desire to do what we can to help others find that pathway and connect people.”
“I joke all the time that there’s Mormons everywhere up here, you never know,” added Martin, a professional staff member on the House Ways and Mean Human Resources Subcommittee.
The association maintains its network through the lunches and other activities.
“Everyone has their alumni network from their undergraduate institute or from their law school or grad school and it’s kind of like we have an extra one,” Larsen said. “We can connect with [people] beyond those alumni networks and people who are willing to help out.”
Anywhere from five to 20 staffers attend the monthly lunches. There are about 100 people on the group’s e-mail list, and while 80 percent are Hill staffers, the rest include a few lobbyists and other people associated with the Hill.
BYU has an internship program in Washington, and Larsen and Martin, both alumni of the school, meet with the students when they come to D.C. Earlier this month, 40 interns received advice on how to find jobs on Capitol Hill. And a group of church leaders in town met with members of the association.
Larsen and Martin recently revived the association, which had lapsed years ago.
“This is my second stint on the Hill and when I was here and started about 12 years [ago], this was an LDS staff association that was run by a friend of mine,” Larsen said. “And I think when he left the Hill, it kind of disappeared.”
Members include staffers from both parties and both chambers.
“We had a few people just not too long ago from [former] Sen. [Harry] Reid’s office talking about their transition,” Martin said.
Larsen added, “I will regularly have people come to me, whether interns or folks that have been around for a while, asking for help finding a job.”