The Hill's 25 Women to Watch: Page 16 of 26

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EXECUTIVE BRANCH



PIA CARUSONE

HOMELAND SECURITY ASSISTANT SECRETARY

Pia Carusone is not too interested in climbing the ladder of political success; the former emergency medical technician says she’s more focused on helping people. It just so happens she’s incredibly good — and successful — with her career in Washington.

The 32-year-old assistant secretary for public affairs at the Homeland Security Department emerged from relative obscurity nearly two years ago when her then-boss, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), and 18 other people were shot while at a community event outside a Tucson, Ariz., Safeway.

As the office reeled from shock and the prospects of Giffords’s recovery shifted daily, Carusone, Giffords’s chief of staff, filled the void.

“Pia rose to the occasion, and we all followed her lead,” said former Giffords communications director C.J. Karamargin. “She was deftly able to guide us through that period of uncertainty, and that takes an extraordinary amount of skill, understanding and sensitivity. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it the same way.”

Carusone started in politics nine years ago, working on former Rep. Carol Shea Porter’s (D-N.H.) and Rep. John Sarbanes’s (D-Md.) campaigns, and eventually landed a job as Giffords’s right-hand woman on Capitol Hill.

“I never really had a long-term goal for myself,” Carusone said. “I’ve been more interested in the substance and content of my work, my team, and always surrounding myself with a good crew.”

In her new role, Carusone draws from her Arizona experience, tackling issues ranging from the U.S.-Mexico border to national and local emergency-response efforts to events like Hurricane Isaac.

Carusone’s rise has come with lessons learned, though: Always make time for your friends and family, because they are the ones who matter and will keep you grounded, she says; take risks and aim for things that seem out of reach, because you’ll surprise yourself; and don’t forget to take vacations.

— Jordy Yager

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