Hometown: Lexington, Ky.
Political party: Democratic
Relationship status: Longtime girlfriend
From Kentucky to Washington by way of West Africa, Ethan McClelland has taken the long road to Capitol Hill.
The 26-year-old Lexington native graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., with degrees in History and American Studies — and already had his eyes trained on D.C. — but a detour with the Peace Corps took him first to Senegal, where for two years, he taught rural subsistence farmers the tricks of sustainable agriculture.
That "perspective-altering experience," as he calls it, offered an opportunity to meet a foreign culture in ways no tourist can: "to see the world and do it in a way that's not traveling."
McClelland says he enjoyed the opportunity "to bring a little bit of America to Senegal," but "more importantly," he relishes the idea of "bringing a little bit of Senegal back to America." He credits the experience with keeping him grounded in the face of “First World problems" — a bad Internet connection, say — which are laughable relative to the hardships facing much of the globe.
"It's amazing what our lives here are compared to the rest of the world," he said. "There's so much stuff we take for granted."
After Senegal, McClelland spent several months in Minneapolis (with his girlfriend), before the political itch lured him to Washington, where he arrived with neither a job nor a prospect for one.
"For someone my age, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else," he says.
After pecking around, McClelland landed as an intern with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Almost two years later, he's still there, now a special assistant in her leadership office, with no plans to leave.
"I like working for a boss who's as dedicated to service and the country's most vulnerable as I am," he explains. "That keeps us motivated."
As for romance, that story has played out well: McClelland's girlfriend followed him to D.C. and now also works on Capitol Hill.
Perhaps that part was inevitable. McClelland's middle name is, literally, "Love."
— Mike Lillis