Rep. Sam Johnson’s new aides have been around town, world

When Kelsey Knight had the opportunity to meet then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in his Pentagon office, one of the questions she asked him was, “So, how do you get here? Do you take the Metro? It’s so convenient because it comes right underneath!”

Knight was then a college freshman and a Pentagon intern. Now the 24-year-old Maryland native is a new staff assistant in Rep. Sam Johnson’s (R-Texas) office. She has two new colleagues, too: Jamie Corley, a legislative correspondent; and David Eiselsberg, a tax policy adviser.

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Knight’s small talk about transportation with Rumsfeld paid off (his answer to her Metro question: “No, I get escorted.”). She was invited back for several other Pentagon summer internships and also received advice on how to get into the coveted White House internship program.

Knight, a University of Arizona alumna, eventually made it to the White House after a few tries, and she interned for former first lady Laura Bush before accepting a job post-graduation as former Domestic Policy Adviser Karl Zinsmeister’s executive assistant.

Knight worked at the White House until President Barack Obama’s inauguration, but she hasn’t been back since.

It’s “like looking at an ex-boyfriend or something,” she says. “I haven’t walked down Pennsylvania [Avenue] from 15th to 17th [streets]; I’m so nervous to look, [and] they are going to be like, ‘Get off this property!’ ”

Corley, 22, also worked as a White House intern but made an international splash during a yearlong academic program at the London School of Economics. She won an elected office to represent all students there from abroad, and she also organized the school’s first Republican-Democratic debate. The event occurred during the height of the 2008 presidential election, and the student body was so interested in the campaign that the debate was standing-room only and got media coverage from the BBC, she says.

“LSE is known for their leftist policies, so I walk in — blonde, Republican, intern at the White House — and they’re like, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” says the Southern Methodist University alumna and St. Louis native. “It was such a blast.”

Eiselsberg, 35, was also following last year’s national elections with great interest — in part because his day job depended on the outcome of one particular race that was decided this summer. Before coming to Johnson’s office, the Maryland native worked in former Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) office, where he handled tax, budget and labor policies.

When it became clear that the election decision between Coleman and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) would be drawn out, Eiselsberg entered professional limbo.

“It was a strange time, that’s for sure,” he says, explaining that Coleman’s Senate office was shut down by the end of February.

Eiselsberg, a Johns Hopkins University alumnus, says he still hasn’t fully processed those final few months in Coleman’s office, helping a senator confront financial meltdown all while knowing his boss was in a knock-down, drag-out reelection campaign.

“It was like a high wire,” he says. “You were so nervous [about] what was going to happen the next day.”