By Betsy Rothstein - 10/03/06 12:00 AM EDT
Rep. Kendrick Meek’s (D-Fla.) new congressional aides are untypical; they haven’t been dreaming of a job in politics since shining on the high school debate team. But, for all that, they are no less excited to be here.
Meet Cathy Brown, a new staff assistant. She has been in the office for one month, having interned for Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) in the fall of 2004 and having volunteered on ex-Rep. Martin Frost’s (D-Texas) campaign that same year. She recently earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Trinity University and is contemplating a master’s degree in divinity.
“I’m just so happy to be on Capitol Hill to contribute to this office,” she says.
After high school, Brown served in the Army for three years. In the early ’90s, she was a correctional officer at Lorton prison and later at a drug facility in D.C. Among her responsibilities was escorting prisoners from the jail to the clinic to get methadone treatments. “It was kind of scary in moments,” she says. “They guys upset me so badly one day and I started crying, so I knew I had to go.”
Brown also worked as a telecom operator for Washington Hospital Center and says she has heard everything on the phone, some of which she cannot repeat.
She is a native of Columbia, S.C. and has lived in D.C. for the past 15 years.
Portia Hickson, 36, comes from Lake City, S.C., but her first name comes from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”
“My mother wanted me to be an attorney,” she explains. She isn’t one, “but some people say I argue like an attorney.”
Hickson ought to adjust to her new job as Meek’s executive assistant and scheduler with ease considering that she previously worked as an event coordinator for the Washington Speakers Bureau, an entity that coordinates speaking engagements for famous names such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell to former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
“He’s very busy,” Hickson says of Meek. “I’m still learning what’s important; not that all requests are not important, but who’s a colleague, who’s a friend.”
Hickson, a graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore, says she came to Capitol Hill for a change of pace. “Everyone said this was a happening place, so I’m here,” she says.
Also drawn to Capitol Hill is Adam Sharon, 29, the new press secretary, who left his job as a TV producer for PBS’s show, “White House Chronicle,” in order to work for Meek. The show was produced in partnership with WHUT (Howard University Television).
Before that, he freelanced from Washington for The Jerusalem Post, and before that, was a reporter and producer for Talk Radio News in D.C.
Sharon wears funky rectangular tortoiseshell eyeglasses that make him look more artsy than political. “I like stylish glasses,” he explains, “and my other glasses are broken.”
A native of Toronto, Canada, he graduated from McGill University in Montreal and earned his master’s degree in International Relations from John’s Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Why Capitol Hill? “I just sort of felt the time had come to get engaged in politics,” he says. A year ago he began meeting casually with press secretaries, one of whom was Drew Nannis, Meek’s former spokesman. Six weeks ago Sharon learned that Nannis was moving on to go to work for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), so he applied.
He defends his lack of Hill experience by saying, “There’s an emphasis on Hill experience which I didn’t have, but I had other experiences that were obviously media-focused.”
Robert Miller, 27, has been promoted from legislative correspondent to legislative assistant. He graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Miller joined the Peace Corps in 2003 and was sent to Haiti for his tour of duty. He has worked for Meek since 2004.