Rep. Joseph Cao’s (R-La.) office is full of diverse, fun people with lots to say and many issues they are passionate about. They speak 11 different languages, including Indonesian, Chinese and Russian, and play eight different instruments between them; one is even a classically trained opera singer.
Clayton Hall, chief of staff: Hall began his job as chief of staff after working for then-Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.) from 2002 through 2008, serving as his chief of staff for the past two years.
His favorite part about his new job is the people.
“Personnel management is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of being a chief of staff,” he said. “We are putting together a great team here, and it’s great watching staff grow into their jobs.”
The best advice he’s received about his job is: “Stay off the front page and out of the police blotter,” from his first boss. “Be aware that you are an extension of the congressman, and don’t embarrass him,” he said.
If he weren’t working on Capitol Hill, Hall would be budget traveling with his wife. “Emphasis on budget,” he said. “It would start with a cross-country drive across the U.S.”
Brooke Bennett, legislative director: Bennett’s favorite part of her new job is reflecting on the role she is playing in speeding the recovery and rebuilding of Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district. “The best advice I ever received about this job is: ‘Never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut,’ ” she said.
Previously, Bennett worked as a counsel for three years for the House Oversight Committee.
Before that, she was a finance analyst for six years in London.
“What I miss most about those jobs is sleep,” she said.
If she weren’t in politics, Bennett would be a photojournalist in Africa.
Dan Nguyen, projects director: Nguyen’s favorite aspect of his new job as projects director is the meeting and working with staff from diverse backgrounds, he said.
Previously, Nguyen worked in the Department of Public Works for the City of Annapolis, Md.
“I miss the many dedicated employees in the department I have come to know in a short time, and also miss working in the technical field,” he said.
His first week on the job with a new congressman was chaotic and a bit overwhelming. “Setting up a new office proved quite challenging,” Nguyen said. “Most of the equipment in the office wasn’t functioning, and phones were ringing off the hook.” However, older staffers told him it would get better — and it did.
If he weren’t on Capitol Hill, Nguyen would be back at Public Works.
Cassie Alsfeld, legislative correspondent: Alsfeld, who calls her work “incredibly meaningful and fulfilling,” works to assist in the legislative and committee work concerning Gulf Coast recovery, but also gets to provide a constituent perspective on it all, she said.
Prior to coming to Capitol Hill, Alsfeld worked briefly in fundraising after interning for then-Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).
Her best advice about her job Alsfeld received from her parents: “Do everything with a smile, focus and be a team player.”
If she weren’t in Cao’s office, Alsfeld would be working on the recovery effort in New Orleans, going to graduate school and sleeping.
Jennifer Vu, legislative correspondent: Vu, who recently began her job as legislative correspondent, loves getting to work on the issues that matter most to the rebuilding of New Orleans. “Every week brings something new and it’s been nothing but exciting,” she said.
Before working for Cao, Vu worked for a non-profit that helped rebuild New Orleans East. If she wasn’t on the hill, Vu would be in law school during the day and promoted New Orleans bands at night. “I also would have started my own band eventually,” she said.
Anna Dearmon, scheduler and press assistant: Serving as both scheduler and press assistant has been a lot of work, but is very exciting, Dearmon said.
“I get to do a variety of things on a daily basis,” she said. “Plus, I was born and raised in Louisiana — being in the middle of recovery efforts for the largest and most culturally unique city in our state is very rewarding.”
Before joining Cao’s staff, she was a member of his transition team. Prior to that, she served as press assistant for a U.S. Senate Campaign. “I miss the wonderful people that I worked with and the friends that I made,” she said.
Her favorite piece of scheduling advice was never to delete any e-mail. Ever. Dearmon’s future goals include going to law school, and her dreams include someday opening a children’s book and toy store and living near the ocean.
Monica Sanders, legislative assistant: Sanders, who began her new job as legislative assistant in the new year, loves doing something substantive toward not only rebuilding but renewing her hometown of New Orleans. “It is inspiring to see how engaged people in the city are and how much they want to help us,” she said.
Sanders recently finished law school and took the Maryland bar exam. “I miss nothing about that,” she said. “Previously I participated in Harvard’s Project on Negotiation, focusing on international dispute resolution,” she said.
Sanders would either be in London studying or hiking somewhere in Central America if she weren’t in politics.
Reginald Darby, staff assistant: Reginald Darby just started his job as staff assistant for Cao and enjoys connecting with individuals from the 2nd district of Louisiana. “I also get to wear a cool designer suit every day,” he said.
Before Cao, Darby worked at the GOP conference as an intern.
“It was my steppingstone to this office,” he said. “They gave me the proper foundation that I needed to secure this job and my career.”
Darby is still a student, but if he weren’t on Capitol Hill, he’d be in someone’s “American Idol” line trying to catch one of his other dreams: becoming an international pop star.
POWER UP: Cherie Harris was recently named director of legislative affairs for the Electric Power Supply Association. Most recently, she worked in the EPSA D.C. office as director of federal affairs for Constellation Energy. Previously, she served as a senior policy adviser to the Senate Special Committee on Aging for Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).
NICE RESUMÉ: Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has joined international law firm McKenna Long and Aldridge LLP as an independent consultant. He will work primarily in government affairs and provide guidance to clients in the healthcare and alternative-energy areas. Dean left the governor’s office in Vermont to run for president in 2003.
WAGGENER VP: Global multiservice public-relations agency Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE) announced Tuesday that Joe Farren will become vice president of its global public affairs practice in D.C.
Farren joins the WE from CTIA-The Wireless Association, where he was assistant vice president of public affairs. He also worked as the national spokesman for the wireless industry. It was there he shaped the industry’s public messages on consumer issues and policy proposals before Congress.
Lindsay Denise Young will marry Navy Capt. Mark Douglas Kavanaugh on Sept. 13, 2009. The two will wed in an outdoor reception at the River Farm in Alexandria. Young is a legislative director for Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas). She was proposed to on Jan. 31 at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar —
March 2, 1955 — age 54
Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) —
March 7, 1944 — age 65
Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) —
March 6, 1939 — age 70
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) —
March 4, 1953 — age 56
Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) —
March 7, 1968 — age 41
Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) —
March 5, 1957 — age 52
Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.) —
March 5, 1962 — age 47
Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) —
March 7, 1956 — age 53
Nancy Speier, mother of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) died Feb. 27 at the age of 93. Nancy Speier retired three months ago from her 50-year career as an upholstery teacher in San Francisco adult schools. “We are all very blessed to have had her in our lives for so long,” Rep. Speier said.
Vito Perriello, Jr., father of Rep. Rom Perriello (D-Va.) died last week in Charlottesville, Va. due to two strokes. Perriello was a pediatrician. “I hope to spend decades trying to match his ceaseless live commitment to our common humanity,” Rep. Perriello said.