By Betsy Rothstein - 01/13/09 06:09 PM EST
At 28, Dave Natonksi is a year older than Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.). But Natonksi doesn’t imagine he’ll make waves with his new boss.
“I don’t foresee it being a problem,” says Natonksi, a former press secretary to then-Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who lost his reelection in November. “He’s been a pleasure to work for so far.”
Natonksi also doesn’t believe that his longtime ties to Shays — he worked for him for the past five years — will create any disharmony in his new job. “I still talk to [Shays],” he says. “He was a great boss. I will keep in touch with him for as long as I live.”
Yet he couldn’t be more thrilled to be working for Schock, 27, the youngest member of the freshman class. “It’s exciting to work for a young member,” says Natonksi, who will serve his new boss in the same role he played in Shays’s office.
The aide says he immediately connected with Schock. “I liked his positive nature,” he said, explaining that after two meetings with the congressman and chief of staff they offered him the position. “I had a great feeling. I was hoping it was going to work out.”
He sees similarities between Schock and Shays, and that puts him at ease. “They want to find common-sense solutions to problems,” he said. “They don’t just want to throw bombs.”
He said he doesn’t believe he will have to be protective of Schock due to his freshman status. “He has been in this business since 19,” he said, citing his boss’s serving on a local school board at that age, then in the Illinois statehouse at 23 and now Congress. “I don’t think I need to worry about that.”
Natonksi, a military brat, grew up in many places and moved every two years to locations such as New York, Virginia, California and overseas. When he was 8 years old he lived in Israel. As a freshman in high school he lived in Rome.
The aide’s father is a Marine Corps general. He said moving was a good experience for him. “I think it builds character,” he says.
Friends often remark on his looks, saying he resembles the character Jim from the NBC TV series “The Office.” He thought so, too, and dressed up as the character two years ago for Halloween. “I always say it could be worse — I could look like Dwight,” he says. He has also been told he looks like actor Ashton Kutcher. Natonksi appeared in the 2005 edition of The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful.
Some of the aide’s most memorable moments on Capitol Hill have involved meeting sports figures. In 2004, for instance, Shays took him to the White House, where he met the University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach after the team won the national championship. He also met President Bush, who, he says, “is also impressive.” In his time on Capitol Hill he has also met NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley.