Meet the "other" Tom Reynolds

Tom Reynolds, press secretary to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), is departing Washington this week to take a job as Iowa communications director for presidential hopeful and current New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D).

An aide on Capitol Hill since 2005, Reynolds, 30, previously worked as communications director for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). Before that, he worked in the private sector at a public-affairs firm in Southern California.

Not long after arriving in Washington, Reynolds caught on to the workings of Capitol Hill. “I quickly became comfortable carrying around large purses,” he said, referring to the stylish handbags he’d often hold for Harman during press interviews. “This is a cutthroat place. You do whatever you have to for the job.”

Working for Harkin brought other nuances to the aide’s life. “I came to appreciate the delicacy that is the Blizzard from Dairy Queen,” Reynolds said, explaining, “Traveling with Sen. Harkin in Iowa, there are routine and regular trips to the famed ice cream shop.”

While Harkin varies his concoctions, Reynolds is strictly an Oreo Blizzard kind of guy. “And just for the record, Tom Harkin can create a perfect soft-serve ice cream cone,” he said. “He has been known to go behind the counter and dispense his own.”

Reynolds does know how to take his work seriously. On the Hill, he explained, “My favorite part is having the chance to both shape policy and influence voters. What I enjoy is getting to work with the smart, engaged and dedicated staffers who sacrifice salary and quality of life to try and make this country a better place.”

Reynolds, in his relatively short career on the Hill, has had the opportunity to meet a variety of people, including former Miss America Vanessa Williams; Dr. James Watson, who discovered the DNA sequence; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); and Eunice Schriver, founder of the Special Olympics.

“The bottom line is you work long days and it’s incredibly stressful, but you get to come work at the U.S. Capitol every day and that’s kind of cool,” he said.

The staffer bears the same surname as Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.). Last year he ran into the congressman at a Capitol Hill restaurant. “I introduced myself and told him we had something in common,” he said. “He invited me to meet his wife and political supporters. A few months later the Democrats took over the House. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

So why leave now? “Because this is a historic race,” he said. “It’s going to be a monumental turning point for the country and I want to play a small part in that. I think Governor Richardson is an intriguing and dynamic candidate, and when the opportunity arose, I jumped on it.”

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Reynolds graduated from Boston University. During his undergraduate years he spent a semester in Sydney, Australia. For now, he takes a leave from a master’s program in political management at George Washington University.

What does Reynolds think about living in Iowa for a while?

“I’m looking forward to it. Great pork chops, Midwest values and the Highlife Lounge,” he said. “What more can a man ask for?”

And while he has his sights set on working in the White House for Richardson, Reynolds hasn’t ruled out returning to Capitol Hill someday. “There aren’t many jobs out there that let you make a real difference,” he said.

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