By The Hill Staff - 07/25/12 09:00 AM EDT
Hometown: Dillingham, Alaska
Political party: Independent
Relationship status: Engaged
Mary Hiratsuka, an Alaskan Inuit and legislative assistant for Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), loves all things sealskin, and she’s not afraid to show it. During Washington’s chillier seasons, she can be seen toting her prized sealskin bag around the Capitol’s hallways.
Though Hiratsuka’s taste in animal furs might seem unique, the odds she overcame to land a job in Washington are even more out of the ordinary.
Her hometown, which she says is the “salmon capital of the world,” has a population of less than 2,500 people and is reachable only by plane. Despite geographical barriers, Hiratsuka managed to leave Dillingham, first living as a foreign exchange student in Brazil after graduating high school and later as a student at Dartmouth College.
Hiratsuka got her start on Capitol Hill in 2003 as an intern for then-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). After graduating from college, taking an internship in Greenland and working briefly as a lobbyist in Anchorage, she returned to Washington, landing in Young’s office.
Hiratsuka says she has enjoyed working for Young over the past three years because it has helped her stay in touch with her Alaskan and Native American roots. Change is on the horizon, though, with an upcoming move to New York with her fiancé and a pending career in finance.
“It’s tough to leave the Hill … especially because I’ve been involved in Alaskan politics for the last four years and it’s something that’s close to home,” she says. “To get out of that and to try something completely new in a different industry is scary, but exciting.”
— Zach Bergson