Fossella aides: ready for the unpredictable

Three aides to Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) assumed new positions this month, readying themselves to act swiftly and effectively should the need arise.

Press secretary Craig Donner, a 36-year-old from Brooklyn, was promoted to director of communications and will remain in Fossella’s district office on Staten Island.

In the decade he has spent working for Fossella, Donner has seen the technology improve dramatically, allowing him to communicate more efficiently with people in D.C. and elsewhere.

“I’m a big believer you can do this job from anywhere,” Donner said. “Whether I’m in Disney World or anywhere else, I’m able to step in and do my job because of technology.”

Donner said he fell into politics when he answered a help-wanted ad posted by Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari. He said Molinari took a chance hiring him as press secretary without any training or experience. The job turned out to be the perfect training ground for a career in political communication.

Fossella also promoted 27-year-old legislative assistant Jon Taets, from Horseheads, N.Y., to deputy communications director. Taets will maintain his legislative assistant duties.

“It’s all new to me,” Taets said. “You don’t want to be the guy who says the wrong thing to a reporter. It can be a little nerve-racking when you get into it, but I try to look at it more as an exciting new challenge, and hopefully I won’t screw anything up.”

Taets first worked for Fossella as an intern before completing a political science degree from Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. He returned as staff assistant after working for the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2002 midterm elections. He was later promoted to legislative correspondent and then legislative assistant, focusing on transportation, judiciary and telecommunications issues.

“I’ve always been interested in the new tech stuff,” he said. “I’ve never been the one to fully understand how it worked, but always liked to play with the new, cool toys.”

In addition, Fossella promoted 26-year-old Ryan McKee from legislative assistant to legislative director. The Toledo, Ohio, native said she enjoys the challenge of responding quickly to the unpredictable needs that often arise in a congressional office.

“The quick response … is one of the most difficult things,” she said. “That’s part of what makes it fun, but it’s definitely a part that is very challenging.”

McKee graduated from Ohio University in 2003 with a political science degree. She applied for a staff assistant job with Fossella right out of college at the urging of her sister, a lobbyist on the Hill. A year later, she was promoted to legislative correspondent. Six months after that, she became a legislative assistant, handling healthcare and financial services issues.