By Kris Kitto - 09/23/08 06:17 PM EDT
Meagan McCanna’s official title may be “caseworker,” but she sees her job as much more.
“Every day I’m a social worker, a government-benefits expert, an immigration official, a lawyer, an accountant — and then a facilitator, a problem-solver or even a friend,” says the newly hired aide to Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.).
McCanna, 22, is the rare Capitol Hill staffer whose primary responsibility isn’t helping craft legislation or attending to a member’s needs but looking after the welfare of constituents. As a Washington-based caseworker, she investigates any issues constituents have with federal or executive agencies.
Just two months into her first job out of college — she graduated in May from Milwaukee’s Marquette University, where she majored in political science and communications — McCanna has quickly become an expert in Social Security, Medicare and other issues that commonly plague constituents. She got into Petri’s good graces by working as an intern last summer.
“Economic stimulus payments have been the bane of my existence since I’ve been out here,” she said in explaining one of the hottest issues she’s had to deal with recently.
But there’s an upshot to tracking down all the errant stimulus checks: “I go from having no tax return experience at all to being an expert,” she said.
The other positive is that McCanna is doing what she came to Washington to do.
“I very much want to serve people, be a part of public service,” she said.
But there may be another reason for McCanna’s departure from her native Wisconsin. She speaks forlornly of another former Wisconsin resident whom she feels recently jilted her. “Of course I was sad to see Brett go,” she says, referring to Brett Favre, the former Green Bay Packers quarterback who stayed in retirement for only a few months this year before signing with the New York Jets.
“I felt like he was this rebel boyfriend who broke my heart, you know?” McCanna explains with a wistful smile.
Revenge is sweet. Though she still holds the Packers and Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers in high esteem, she has her eye on other teams.
“I might become a Nationals and Redskins fan, too,” she says, referring to the local professional sports teams. But before she gets too caught up in the idea, she quickly wonders aloud, “Is that wrong?”
McCanna doesn’t just talk sports; she plays them, too. She was a four-sport athlete in high school, participating in softball, basketball, volleyball and cross-country. In D.C., she runs and plays right field on a House League softball team made up mostly of past and present Petri staffers.
“Everyone always tries to hit to me,” she says. “They think, ‘I’m going to go for the girl.’ And I get them out, so that’s fun.”
Her Wisconsin blood runs deep, and though she says she doesn’t want to further any stereotypes, she admits to loving the state’s three major food groups: cheese, bratwurst and beer.
There’s just one thing about her home state that she won’t miss.
“I’m really looking forward to a mild winter out here,” McCanna says. “I can’t imagine not having a 30-degree-below-zero consistent week. I can’t imagine it.”