Sutton’s new flack loves baking, hates height discrimination

Rep. Russ Carnahan’s (D-Mo.) office surely must be going through sugar withdrawal ever since Deputy Communications Director Shannon O’Brien left earlier this year.

But any sweet-toothed staffers in Rep. Betty Sutton’s (D-Ohio) office are celebrating O’Brien’s arrival as communications director.

O’Brien, you see, is a baker. A serious baker.

“My signature recipe? I have these amazing oatmeal-raisin cookies that are awesome,” the 24-year-old St. Louis native says as she describes the baked goods she brought into Carnahan’s office. Her former co-workers also went crazy for her raspberry bars, which, she says, “just melt in your mouth.”

O’Brien bakes for two main reasons: Homemade treats make people feel good, and baking helps her release stress.

And O’Brien’s schedule has the potential for high stress.

Since she started in Sutton’s office in early February, she has been busy getting used to a new boss and starting new relationships with the press that cover Sutton’s district.

When she leaves the office, she goes to George Washington University two nights a week for class in her political management master’s program. On top of that, she wakes up at 5:30 every morning to work out in the House gym before starting her day.

Somehow she still finds time to bake — even making care packages for her two younger siblings. She discusses characteristics of superior frosting while sitting in the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria.

“I’m a frosting snob,” she says, denouncing “the canned stuff” and describing her signature butter-cream frosting, whose key ingredient is almond extract.

“The frosting … can’t be that nasty, marshmallowy — no,” she says before addressing one other pet peeve. “Cool Whip does not equal frosting. Sorry.”

Those who meet her will first notice her height. This — like the frosting — is a touchy subject.

The 6-foot-2 former golfer and basketball player doesn’t understand the intrigue surrounding her stature.

“With tall people, apparently strangers feel like they are allowed to ask you personal questions, like, ‘How tall are you? Were your parents that tall?’ ” she says. She also bemoans inquiries about whether she plays basketball.

“I don’t go around asking short people if they were jockeys or if they were gymnasts. That’s rude!” she says. “So why is it OK for you to ask me how tall I am?”

For those who must know, her mother is 6-foot-1, and her father, who is an event 6 feet, used to coach O’Brien, her 6-5 brother and her 5-11 sister in basketball.

Rants aside, O’Brien has clearly moved past any hang-ups having to do with her height. On this particular day, she’s wearing a navy blue skirt suit, a choker of pearls, and navy blue high heels that are at least 3 inches high.

“I used to wear flats all the time, and then my friend was like, ‘Shannon, you’re 6-2, it’s not really hiding anything,’ ” she says.

Would the tall baker ever be interested in starting a bakery?

“Theoretically, yeah. But I don’t see that anytime soon,” she says. “Knowing me, I’ll probably do that on the side. Keep my job but open a bakery.”