Female domination in Rep. Feeney’s office

Women are moving on up in Rep. Tom Feeney’s (R-Fla.) office. On the eight-person staff, they now outnumber men five to three; of five recent hires and promotions, four openings were filled by women.

“The really great thing is that it wasn’t attempted or aimed for,” Feeney’s new legislative director, Erin Kanoy, said. “We hired the most competent people for their position and that’s who got the job.” Kanoy, 30, joined the office in February. It’s her first job on the Hill; she previously worked as a lobbyist for the Independent Community Bankers of America and the Bush administration.

Whatever the reason for the high proportion of women, staffers agree that it contributes to a lighthearted atmosphere. “We have lots of energetic ladies, so that makes the office fun,” Erin Houg, who became scheduler in January, said. Houg, 26, started working for Feeney last August as an intern before becoming interim staff assistant in October.

When asked if there was a gender-based office rivalry, Kanoy said no, adding, “though the guys get more information on women than they’d like to.”

One might expect the only new man in the office, Brian Miller, to feel out of place. He’s a bona fide sports nut — when asked for his start date, he responded “the day after the national championships,” referring to Jan. 8, when the University of Florida Gators football team won the Bowl Championship Series.

Miller, 21, is a junior business major at the University of Florida and has a lot of pride in his team. He took off the spring semester to intern for Feeney, but was promoted to staff assistant when his predecessor, Beth Zentmeyer, left to take a job at the White House.

In Feeney’s office, all of the women “have an interest in sports, so I feel like I’m right at home,” Miller said. Now that the college basketball season is at its zenith, everyone is wrapped up in March Madness. “That and whatever’s going on with legislation are the conversations that come up here,” Miller said.

Although there’s a mutual respect between the sexes, the women aren’t too proud to take advantage of the men’s brawn from time to time. Miller previously worked at a weightlifting gym — experience that “really helps the ladies in the office change the water cooler,” Feeney’s press secretary, Pepper Pennington, said.

Feeney’s former scheduler, Emily Smith, also has taken a new position. As of Jan. 1, Smith, 25, became the legislative correspondent. She graduated from the University of California-Davis with a degree in economics and worked in the office of Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) before joining the Feeney staff.