To Washington, by way of Animal Planet

Tim Merritt, Rep. Gene Green’s (D-Texas) new scheduler, never planned to be a Hill aide. In fact, the 25-year-old from Dallas tried jobs as far from politics as runway modeling and traveled as far as Guatemala before landing an internship in Washington.

“I never thought I’d end up here,” Merritt said.

Before settling on an international development major from the University of North Texas, Merritt studied theater in London and worked briefly in New York as an actor and model, including a gig for a show on Animal Planet. He played one of three men who broke into an apartment, took the residents hostage and dug a hole in the floor to rob the bank next door.

“Apparently they used a dog [to perform the heist], or a dog caught them, I think,” Merritt said. “I don’t remember. The show has since been canceled. I wonder why.”

Merritt wasn’t satisfied with New York, so he moved to Guatemala, where his parents were working for an international mission and aid organization. There, he developed an interest in international development. He then enrolled at the University of North Texas to study classical piano but switched to development because it permitted him to take classes in several departments that interested him, including politics, anthropology, crisis management and sociology.

By chance, he learned of an internship opportunity on the Hill. He interned for Green this semester and recently agreed to become scheduler. After finishing some online courses, he will graduate from college next summer.

“I don’t really see how you can come off an experience on the Hill … without getting addicted to NPR and CNN and stuff like that,” Merritt said. “[It’s] an addiction or a passion for the ability to change things and make things better.”

In contrast to Merritt’s roundabout trip to D.C., 27-year-old Ryan Taylor took the express route to the Hill and to his recent promotion to deputy communications director for Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

Originally from Rawlins, Wyo., Taylor said he has always enjoyed following politics and loves working on policies that could affect his family and hometown.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on in Wyoming,” Taylor said. “Lots of people might not think that necessarily, but there are.”

Taylor earned a degree in political science from the University of Wyoming and interned for the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) in 2002. He was later hired as press secretary for Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and followed him to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. In January 2007, he rejoined Thomas’s office and stayed to work for Barrasso when Thomas died of leukemia in June.

Taylor said his dad taught him to remember his roots while away in Washington, which include his love for family and football. As a diehard Broncos fan, Taylor leads his fantasy football league, and he will never forget one particularly poignant moment.

“One of the greatest moments of my life was watching John Elway and the Denver Broncos win their first Super Bowl,” he said. “I’ve only seen [my father] cry twice in my life. One was when his father died and the second was when John Elway lifted that Super Bowl trophy over his head.”