Bishop’s new aide is envied by hometown friends

Niki Newberry’s college friends are more impressed by her new job than she is. Shortly after receiving her degree in agricultural communications from the University of Georgia, Newberry got a call from Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr.’s (D-Ga.) office asking if she was interested in becoming its legislative assistant for agriculture policy.

Newberry, 23, who began work in March, said she now fields questions from star-struck friends about how many congressmen she has spoken with, adding that they “watch C-SPAN all the time to try to get a glimpse of me.”

Though only three months out of college, Newberry came into her new position well prepared after having spent last summer as an intern in Bishop’s office.

When asked what the most exciting part of her job has been, New berry’s all business: “I think the most exciting step for me will be actually getting to work on the farm bill.”

She said she’s not sure where the future will see her, but she’s enjoying the present. “It’s like a dream come true, really, to get to work on agricultural issues that directly affect people I know and people in my community,” she said.

Her colleague, Jonathan Halpern, was lured back to the Hill after a two-year absence by the chance to work with a Democratic majority in Congress. “I think that there’s a lot of excitement now, after 12 years of being in the minority,” he said, adding that it’s good “to be in a position to set the agenda.”

He left the lobbying firm of Rapoza Associates at the beginning of March to work as Bishop’s legislative director. This is his first experience on the House side, having previously worked for Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and he’s still getting used to life on the south side of the Capitol.

The pace is much faster on the House side, he said. The main difference between the two chambers is “the House is more closely representative to the will of the people, whereas the Senate is designed … to slow things down and take a long-term view of legislation,” he said.

Halpern, 37, said he’d like to use his experiences in the Senate to help Bishop’s staff “step back and take a larger view of issues” than the time constraints of a two-year House term usually allow.