Cubin staffer learns the nuances of constituent services on road trip

Joy Downey has worked in Rep. Barbara Cubin’s (R-Wyo.) office since October, but her first job for the people of Wyoming came when she was a teenager.

In the middle of a 14-month, cross-country family RV trip that began in 1996, Downey, 26, her mom and two sisters stopped in a Western apparel store in Wyoming to shop for cowboy boots.

“The owner was having an employee day, and everybody was dressed in costume,” she says. Downey and her family struck up a conversation with the owner, who eventually asked them to judge the costume contest because he had no other impartial judges available.

More than a decade later, she continues to serve Wyoming constituents after recently being promoted from Cubin’s office manager to a legislative aide. She has new colleagues, too: Betsy Kammer, 31, was hired to fill Downey’s old position, and Rachael Seidenschnur, 24, is Cubin’s new press secretary.

Downey’s epic road trip was a pipe dream of her mother, who was inspired by the late journalist Charles Kuralt’s On the Road television and book series.   

During the trip, in which they drove through several hurricanes and a blizzard, strangers routinely helped them when they ran out of gas (their 1982 brown Fireball RV didn’t have a working gas gauge).

“This is why I like politics, because I feel like in politics, there are good people, and you can help people,” she says. “Most people will help another neighbor.”

Kammer’s and Seidenschnur’s routes to Cubin’s office aren’t nearly as literal. Kammer came to the Hill after working for the Laramie (Wyo.) City Council; she’s  trying to beef up her policy background so she can break into the intelligence community.

She has designs on elected office, too.

“Way down the road, after I’ve retired from the intelligence community, I’d like to run for House or Senate, but never president,” Kammer says. And she agrees with Downey when she says there’s too much scrutiny on presidential candidates. “I would take vice [president] if it were offered … but I would never go for president.”

Seidenschnur, who got an early start in politics when she led her Arkansas high school’s teenage Republicans club, prefers to be behind the scenes. She has her sights set on White House Press Secretary Dana Perino’s job, and she even looks the part, wearing a blond bob similar to Perino’s and, this day, dressing in a fashionable pink overcoat. To prove her dedication to the Republican Party, she volunteers that she has a cat named Buckley, after the late conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr.  

The three co-workers are still getting acquainted with their workplace.

When asked about any office rituals, Downey and Kammer mention a daily 3 p.m. snack run in which they satisfy their chocolate cravings.

“Guys, I was totally unaware if this!” Seidenschnur says.