The Alaskan senator’s Washington insiders

The capital of Alaska may be 2,838 miles away from Capitol Hill, but Sen. Mark Begich’s (D-Alaska) newest hires cut their legislative teeth in Washington.

Lindsay Young and Liz Brinkerhoff-Nottberg, who joined the freshman senator’s Washington staff as legislative assistants earlier this month, have spent their young careers working in the District.

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Young, 28, a graduate of Colorado State University, will be focusing on military affairs while Brinkerhoff-Nottberg, 27, a Rutgers University alumna, will concentrate on appropriations.

The two knew they were destined for careers in Washington from their first semesters in college.

Young’s interest in politics was buoyed by what she called an enlightening Political Science 101 class as well as an internship with the Colorado State Legislature, a combined experience that convinced her that Washington was her calling.

Brinkerhoff-Nottberg fell under the spell of noted political scientist Ross Baker during a freshman class at Rutgers, spending the duration of Baker’s lectures on the edge of her seat. Baker suggested a Washington internship, which Brinkerhoff-Nottberg completed in Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) office. She hasn’t looked back.

Similarly, both came upon the issues that would dominate their careers to this point by chance.

Young envisioned a career working on healthcare and social issues, but the representative she interned for upon arriving in Washington — former Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) — focused on military affairs.

Before long, Young found herself working in the Pentagon for the secretary of the Army and as a congressional liaison for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. But the intense bureaucracy of the Pentagon irritated her, and she moved back to Capitol Hill, working for Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) before signing on as Begich’s military affairs legislative assistant.

Young draws inspiration from her family members — her grandfather, father and a cousin all spent time in the armed services — and her fiance, Capt. Mark Kavanaugh of the United States Navy, whom she views as her “rock.”

After college, Brinkerhoff-Nottberg went to work for former Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), but she got her start in appropriations as a junior legislative assistant in Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-Ind.) office. After the staffer working on appropriations left, she took over the portfolio and fell in love with it.

“When you are dealing with appropriations, you are constantly meeting with people and hearing interesting stories and learning about them and spending time with them — really helping people,” she said. “I just love that, and so I went with it.”

A recent stint in the private sector as a legislative associate with Duane Morris Government Affairs reinforced her passion for public service and Capitol Hill.

“I love being here; I love doing what I can to help people,” she said. “It’s exciting to see something through and accomplish it.”

Young and Brinkerhoff-Nottberg said they are excited to work for a new boss they see as charismatic, and both plan on staying on Capitol Hill for the foreseeable future.

“I love to wheel and deal, strategize and get things done,” Young said. “That’s a lot harder to do in industry or in an agency. Here, the things you can accomplish and the possibilities are unlimited.”