As many Americans these days are in the habit of watching too much TV, Annie Boehnke’s goal is to start watching more.
Boehnke, Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-Texas) new press secretary, is hoping a boost in her pop culture fluency will help her become better at spotting media opportunities for her boss. But she’s also thinking she’ll be more active in water-cooler banter.
“The only TV I watched before was news media, but when people say, ‘Hey, did you catch “Lost”?’ and honestly, I don’t know what ‘Lost’ is,” she says, referring to the popular ABC drama series. “I know it’s a TV show. I couldn’t tell you a thing about it.”
Boehnke, 24, credits her childhood on a ranch outside San Antonio for her independence from television. That, and a mother who wouldn’t let her and her younger brother watch much TV.
“She’d always turn it off, and honestly, we had four channels,” she says, explaining that programming options weren’t too exciting anyway. She and her brother “always wanted to watch Nickelodeon, like any kid,” but Boehnke now appreciates that they instead spent their time building tree forts, riding horses and helping with the cattle and white-tailed deer raised on their ranch.
Her upbringing was not “Little House on the Prairie,” though (not that she ever wanted to watch it).
“I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. I think you’re picturing dairy farms in the Midwest where kids are working all day,” Boehnke says. “I didn’t wake up at 5 and milk the cows.”
As for her new pastime watching TV, it might have to wait. Boehnke is still catching up from her resignation from her previous job at a management consulting firm and a move from Austin, Texas, that happened so quickly she signed a lease on an apartment she found on Craigslist without seeing it first.
“All I do right now is work, go home and look at my boxes,” she says.
She does have a leg up in Cuellar’s office, though, since she spent a year after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005 working in the congressman’s San Antonio office. She left to work at the Public Consulting Group, where she traveled to Alaska, Florida and Louisiana for client projects. At the time she realized that management consulting wasn’t her life’s work, Cuellar’s office called.
“They asked if I’d be interested in the press job in D.C., and I immediately said yes,” she says. She then began a furious few weeks of finishing a project at her old job, saying goodbye to friends in Austin and going to Laredo for a two-day training with Cuellar’s outgoing press secretary.
Other than preliminary thoughts on attending graduate school by age 30 — possibly for a master’s in business administration — Boehnke has no set plans.
“I’m 24, and I like to not have a 10-year plan,” she says.