By Kris Kitto - 09/14/11 10:50 PM EDT
Title: Staff director, Economic Opportunity subcommittee.
Education: B.A., St. Ambrose College, Davenport, Iowa: graduate, Naval War College.
Last job: Program analyst for a small defense contractor.
Best thing about being staff director: Ability to influence legislation.
Management style: Collaborative
Top priorities in your current role: Jobs for veterans.
Most embarrassing moment on Capitol Hill: My current hairline, as compared to 1978.
Interests outside of work: Sailing.
Of all the places Mike Brinck’s previous career as a Navy helicopter pilot took him, Antarctica was his favorite.
He had three five-month deployments on Operation Deep Freeze, where he supported the National Science Foundation’s studies on the continent. He called it some of the best flying in the world.
“I’d go back tomorrow — if they’d let me fly,” says the staff director for the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Economic Opportunity subcommittee.
He was also on a gunship squadron in Vietnam and had three aircraft carrier-based deployments while in the Navy.
Once Brinck retired from the military in 1988, he knew that he wanted to pursue the family business — government. His father was a politician in Iowa, having been a school board member, city councilman, county commissioner, mayor and representative in the Iowa Legislature.
The most logical step was for him to work in the defense industry, so he found jobs with various defense contractors until he landed a legislative-director position with AMVETS.
When Republicans won control of the House in 1994, Brinck landed a job with the committee.
“So I haven’t managed to progress at all” in the last 17 years, he jokes. In truth, he has taken a leadership role on the committee staff, and he did leave Capitol Hill once to return to the defense industry. But he returned in 2005 because he remains compelled by the committee’s mission.
“This is the best thing in the world in terms of Capitol Hill,” Brinck says. “If you believe in those who defend the nation and that they need to be assisted — not taken care of but assisted — for the rest of their lives, well, then that’s what we do. We’re helping the 1 percent that defend the 99 percent.”
Brinck says he would like to work a few more years before retiring, but he has already thought about what he hopes to do in his post-career years: some “do-gooder kind of stuff,” he says, like volunteering at charitable organizations.