Boswell’s aides bask in glory of Iowa

For the one newly hired and two promoted staffers in Rep. Leonard Boswell’s (D-Iowa) office, Iowa pride runs high.

Earlier this summer, Tom Stewart was promoted from staff assistant to legislative correspondent, Katy Siddall was promoted from legislative correspondent to legislative assistant, and Andrew Northup was hired as a staff assistant. All three are from Boswell’s district and are eager to describe what it means to be an Iowan.

“We’re very open people,” says Northup, 22, a graduate of Central College in Iowa.

“It’s true,” says Siddall, 24, an alumna of her home state’s Simpson College. “People are more likely to say hello to you and chat you up randomly at a coffee shop or on the side of the road back home.”

For Stewart, a 25-year-old graduate of Iowa’s Buena Vista University, being an Iowan means “you have to be involved, no matter what it is. Whether it’s community or church, you have to be involved, you have to be active.”

The three give enthusiastic, modest descriptions of activities they’ve taken up as Iowans.

All three have participated in the Iowa Caucuses. Stewart was an organizer for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004. Siddall helped register new voters and raise awareness of the caucuses while working for the New Voters Project, also in 2004. And Northup dutifully attended the caucuses in both 2004 and 2008.

“It’s a very intense event,” Siddall says.

Their lists of activities reach beyond caucuses. In high school, Stewart would typically arrive on campus at 6 a.m. to run cross-country and leave at 9 p.m. after show choir rehearsal. (To non-Iowan readers, show choir is a jazzy mix of singing and dancing that resembles today’s popular “High School Musical” movies.) He was also involved in theater, speech and track.

Northup took part in traditional choir, cross-country and football in high school, and Spanish Club, French Club and Poli Sci Club in college, he says.

Siddall, more demure about her involvement, says she wasn’t as active in high school. She rattles off her college accomplishments: Pre-Law Society, Student Democrats, a literary magazine, multiple leadership positions in Pi Beta Phi sorority, and “refugee volunteer stuff in Des Moines.”

Despite all the pride, these Iowans can make fun of their homeland. Stewart calls Pekin, the town where Northup attended high school, “completely flat.” Northup jokes that, in Pekin, “you can see your dog running away for five days.” The three laugh and laugh.

But they’re proud enough to bask in the positive media attention their state gets every four years when the presidential candidates pass through. Northup’s favorite part of the 2008 caucuses was scouring the newspaper and watching TV for stories on the people’s friendly demeanor and the state’s quality of life.

“It felt good to hear all these people saying good things about Iowa,” he says.