McHenry’s new team is ready to play

In the wake of last month’s office shake-up, four young aides assumed new positions on Rep. Patrick McHenry’s (R-N.C.) Capitol Hill team.

McHenry’s new press secretary, Wes Climer, was promoted after working in the office for about a year, first as an intern, then as a research assistant. To prepare, Climer said he practically read cover-to-cover the thousand-plus-page House Practice manual.

“You have to know the rules of the game in order to play,” Climer said.

Originally from Rock Hill, S.C., Climer, 25, appreciates the high energy level of his boss, currently the youngest member of Congress.

Despite his love of Washington politics, Climer said he does not plan to raise a family here. Climer, who is engaged, said he pictures himself eventually moving south and returning to school for a law or economics degree.

Another McHenry teammate, Jason Suslavich, is newly promoted to legislative assistant. He will apply his college wrestling experience to his office strategy, but hopefully not with his coworkers.

“I think that, with the sport in general, it gives you a unique sense that ‘there’s nothing I can’t do,’ ” Suslavich said.  

A native of Winchester, Mass., the 24-year-old Suslavich graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in international relations. After college, he interned for then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and the House Ways and Means Committee before being drafted by McHenry as a legislative correspondent.

“The Hill never stops, and as a young staffer, neither can you,” he said.

McHenry acquired a former legislative assistant, Sarah Jones, from Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), to be his scheduler.

Jones, 26, said it’s the perfect fit for her methodical mind.

“I liken it to a puzzle. It’s very much putting the pieces together,” she said.   

A native of Mooresville, N.C., Jones is excited to be working for her home district. She came to D.C. five years ago with a degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina and interned for Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.).  

“There’s a vibe here that isn’t replicated really anywhere else in the country, and I was very attracted to that,” she said.  

Rounding out McHenry’s new line-up is legislative correspondent Austen Jensen, who had to adjust to D.C.’s fast-paced culture after coming from Tucson, Ariz.

 “You know, the small ones get eaten alive,” Jensen said. “The perfect example when I first moved out here: You’re going up the escalators, and if you’re standing on the wrong side — which I did several times — basically you would get run over.”

Jensen, 26, originally planned to study finance at Arizona State University. But he switched to political science after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Jensen first worked for a lobbying firm in D.C., then jumped to then-Rep. Bob Beauprez’s (R-Colo.) office. He joined McHenry’s staff in February as a staff assistant. Jensen said he will likely return to Arizona to raise a family and work in the private sector.

 “Most of my friends are just now getting out of college and having a tough time finding jobs,” he said. “They’re still working at restaurants, trying to make ends meet. The work here is very rewarding.”