By Kris Kitto - 02/26/08 05:46 PM EST
If the Brady Bunch children were to come to Washington to run a congressional office, they might resemble the staff of Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas).
The Johnson group’s favorite activities — their “mandatory fun days,” their enthusiasm for afternoon popcorn breaks, and lots of good-hearted ribbing — are a throwback to the 1970s mischief that the television siblings were known to create.
The Johnson clan has recently had several new hires and promotions.
Cindy and Bobby Brady they are not, but meet two precocious young staffers, Drew McDonald and Kathryn Shapiro. McDonald, 22, was promoted to legislative correspondent in December after completing an internship last summer.
The promotion came while he was back at school completing his degree. Shapiro, 24, was hired in December as a staff assistant following an internship for Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.).
Conner Ryan and Lindsey Ray would be the middle children. Ryan, 24, was promoted to legislative assistant in December from legislative correspondent, and Ray, 23, was promoted from staff assistant to executive assistant in June. She started as an intern in January 2007. (Ray is far better adjusted than Jan Brady and doesn’t seem to show any jealousy issues.)
The older and wiser staffers are Mark Williams, 29, a longtime aide recently promoted to legislative director, and Jeni Healy, 30, who was hired as the health policy adviser in June. Members of the bunch hail from places as diverse as Dallas and Amarillo, Texas; Pacific Palisades, Calif.; and Waukesha, Wis. (So far, Williams has not felt the need to define himself by decorating the doorway with groovy disco beads like Greg Brady did on the show.)
The staffers agree they are like a group of siblings attached at the hip.
“From the moment I interned here, I felt like I was working with a big group of brothers and sisters,” Ray says.
She then offers a good example of a goofy problem that the Brady Bunch children might also have encountered.
After being promoted, Ray took over the duty of driving the congressman around in his Chevrolet Tahoe sport utility vehicle. The first time she sat in the driver’s seat, the congressman was explaining how to pull the car out of the tight spot in the parking garage and drive up the exit ramp.
“He said, ‘You’re going to have to swing it around, because if not, you’ll hit the curb,’ and right as he said that, I hit the curb,” she says. The car bounced high enough to smack the garage’s ceiling, and Ray was terrified.
But the congressman laughed it off. “Lindsey, this is an off-road vehicle,” she says Johnson told her. “This is what they’re for.”
The group laughs about such incidents as they sit and make jokes at a round table in the office’s back room, where they gather daily for breakfast, lunch and an afternoon break.
Ryan takes heat for eating lunch early, throwing everyone else’s lunch schedule off. And Shapiro gets ridiculed for bringing the same lunch every day: an apple, a turkey wrap and a Diet Coke.
They even make up songs about each other’s personal travails. Someone mentions Shapiro’s name, the word “homecoming,” and Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s song “Baby Got Back,” and everyone cracks up. (They collectively decide not to get into the details with The Hill.)
Composing themselves, the group shows a degree of obedience to their boss that would have made Mike and Carol Brady proud.
Healy says, “I think when Sam Johnson looks at you and says, ‘Come work for me’ …”
“You say, ‘Yes, please,’ ” Ray finishes.