Capitol Faces: Kurt Bardella

Age: 24

Position: Director of communications for Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.)
Last job: Press secretary for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
First job: Worked at one of those gift shops at the San Diego Zoo

Most unusual job: “This one — where else do you have a job where one minute you’re talking to The New York Times and the next you’re being protested by Code Pink?”
Professional dream: White House press secretary

Most embarrassing moment: “Being a Lakers fan in a New England office.”

Religion: Catholic
Education: “I actually didn’t go to college — it wasn’t the plan, but it’s how it worked out.”

Claim to fame: “Being quite possibly the only adopted South Korean-Italian-German person on the Hill.”
Favorite political movie or TV show: “City Hall” with Al Pacino

Most inspirational person: “My mom — she has sacrificed so much for my family and is the reason why I have the life I have.”
Favorite quote: “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”

Having never set foot in the nation’s capital before, Bardella came to Washington in July of 2006 to work for Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.).

“My first day in D.C. was my first day on the job,” Bardella recalled. “At the time I thought it was incredibly hot out.”

Beyond that, he was impressed. “It was everything I thought it would be,” he said. “There are very few places in life that meet expectation with what you hear. [Washington] is one of those places that did not disappoint.”

In December of 2007, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) came calling after another senator’s office recommended him. “It wasn’t an expected thing,” Bardella said. “I wasn’t looking to move on.”

Still, he felt it was too great an opportunity to pass up.

But in July of 2008, another opportunity was presented to him — to return to Bilbray’s press office.

“That was even more unexpected,” he said. “When I left the congressman’s office I never really thought I would go back.”

When Bardella left for Snowe’s office, he said Bilbray understood why he had to go, that it was a growth opportunity for him and nothing personal. “The day I left, the congressman said, ‘You’ll always have a home here.’ ”

For Bardella, returning to Bilbray’s office is “not a decision based on ambition,” but one of familiarity. He’ll be able to see his family in San Diego more, but it’s more than that.

“There’s a certain amount of stress you put on yourself when ambition is guiding what you do,” he said. “Once you get comfortable in your own skin that self-burden is taken away from you. You’re able to experience new things and make having a life a little bit more of a priority.”