Senate Periodical Press Gallery loses a familiar face

Deputy Director Shawna Blair departs after 14 years

Shawna Blair of the Senate Periodical Press Gallery, center, holds her dog George Clooney, in the Capitol's Senate Daily Press Gallery in 2015. Appearing in the background, from left, are Tricia Munro of the Senate Press Photographers' Gallery, Laura Lytle and Beth Crowley, both of the Senate Press Gallery and Bloomberg News' Kate Hunter, right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After helping coordinate three presidential inaugurations, eight presidential conventions, five Supreme Court nominations and answering more than a decade of reporter questions, a familiar face will no longer be in the Senate Periodical Press Gallery.

Shawna Blair, the gallery’s deputy director, worked her final day in the gallery Wednesday after about 14 years there. On Monday, she starts her new gig as communications director for the Delta Regional Authority.

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“This is definitely bittersweet leaving,” she said. “I’ve done all there is to do, except of course an impeachment trial, which I’m actually OK missing because that’s going to be a circus.”

Press gallery staffers are key behind-the-scenes fixtures of the Capitol, providing guidance on event credentials, floor procedure and even the location of the closest bathroom.

Snow or shine, when Congress is in session, the gallery staff is, too. Blair, who hails from Little Rock, Ark., said she won’t miss trudging to the Capitol on icy days. Among the things she will miss? Arriving in the pre-dawn hours of Inauguration Day to help set up.

“Going out on the platform, before anyone else is there and just taking that all in, I’m going to remember that,” she said.

In addition to her formal duties, Senate Periodicals Gallery Director Justin Wilson said Blair kept the gallery in the know of all things athletic regarding her alma mater, the University of Arkansas. Lately, the news has not been good: Arkansas’ football team is dwelling in the cellar of the Southeastern Conference’s West division.

“The Monday mood of the office was generally predetermined on Saturday by the Arkansas Razorbacks football team,” Wilson said. But even in a loss or during long periods of hard work, she retained her Southern charm and work ethic.

“What I always admire most about Shawna was her dedication to reporters and how she would fight for them,” he said.

When Blair started, she was just a few years out of college, and was many times learning along with reporters who came with questions. Now with years of experience, she helped countless reporters go from Senate neophytes to experts. That mentorship is something she is particularly proud of.

“I’ve seen so many journalists grow up,” Blair said. “I’m a proud momma.”

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