Team Dutch: In Rep. Ruppersberger’s office, it’s always about togetherness

In Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s (D-Md.) office, commonly known as “Team Dutch,” it comes as no surprise that new hires and promotions are a group affair.

“We do everything by group,” said communications director Heather Molino, demonstrating that credo herself as she sat in on an interview about the office’s two new hires and one recent promotion. “The congressman really likes the group concept.”

So far, so do the team’s newest and most recently promoted members. The new hires are Kristin Barcak, a government and business liaison, and Amanda Bregman, a staff assistant. The promotion went to Maya Hermann, who rose from staff assistant to legislative correspondent and speechwriter.

Bregman, 22, was hired for Ruppersberger last summer and got a taste of “Team Dutch” on her first day, which happened to fall on the office’s annual retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“I was like, ‘Oh, OK, what am I getting into?’ ” said Bregman. “But I think [in] this office … everyone seems to get along. It makes you feel really comfortable coming into this office.”

Bregman coordinates the office’s interns, processes flag requests, gives tours of the Capitol and handles other office odds and ends. There is just one aspect of the office’s team environment that Bregman has not yet adopted: The congressman encourages everyone to call him Dutch. Bregman, a Southerner who graduated from the College of Charleston, cannot bring herself to do it.

“I don’t really call him anything,” she said, explaining that where she comes from, superiors are called “Sir” or “Ma’am.”

Barcak, another College of Charleston graduate, is the newest addition. She started in January after launching an aggressive phone campaign to secure the job.

“She’s very assertive, and she called me several times,” Molino said.

Barcak, 22, works out of the congressman’s Timonium, Md., district office, attending community events and debriefing Ruppersberger on other local goings-on.{mospagebreak}

The long-haired brunette showed her assertiveness in the interview when she stopped waiting to answer questions and began posing queries to her colleagues.

“Well, I’m not the interviewer, but here’s a question,” she said, provoking laughter from the others. She wanted to know whether they felt — as she does — that the camaraderie Team Dutch nurtures in the office extends to the general atmosphere on the Hill.  

Bregman agreed emphatically. She said she knew no one before moving to Washington, but now has made many of her friends on the Hill, either through repeat run-ins in the bathroom or elevator or at the many evening receptions that take place.

The team spirit of Team Dutch extends to after-hour activities, too. They have met for happy hours in Baltimore, had their holiday party at Molino’s house and are trying to organize a movie night soon.

Team members also put on their green “Go Dutch” T-shirts to march in holiday parades with their boss.

Hermann, the newly promoted legislative correspondent and speechwriter, had another preoccupation last year aside from team-building. The 26-year-old’s boyfriend worked just a few doors down the Longworth hall in Rep. Betty Sutton’s (D-Ohio) office before taking a job at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Hermann may work one of the most team-oriented jobs in the office, regularly circulating her speech drafts to several of her colleagues, but she does not clue them in on her every move. Her admission of weekly lunch meetings with her boyfriend was evidence that not everything is public knowledge with Team Dutch.

“I didn’t know about that!” Molino and Bregman chirped.