Inside the Office of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee majority staff: Eric Hannel

Eric Hannel

Title: Staff director, Oversight and Investigations subcommittee

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Age: 44

Hometown: Milton, Fla.

Education: B.S. in history, Excelsior College; M.A. in humanities, California State University, Dominguez Hills; pursuing a dual Ph.D. in interdisciplinarity and public policy from Union Institute and University (dissertation expected early 2012)

Last job: Military liaison for Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)

Best thing about being chief of staff: Finding solutions to problems facing veterans

Management style: Task-oriented

Top priorities: To hold the Veterans Affairs Department accountable, to combat its corporate culture and to ensure the voice of truth is heard without deference to partisan politics, bureaucracy or careerists.

Most embarrassing moment on Capitol Hill: I’m either too naive to know I’ve done it or I haven’t had enough time to do it, but ask me tomorrow.

Interests outside of work:  I’m rather eclectic and I enjoy a large number of things. All I do right now is school and work. I enjoy sports and fitness, and I enjoy music. There are a lot of things I enjoy doing. I just don’t get a chance to do them right now.

Unlike many congressional staffers who had their sights set on Capitol Hill early on, Eric Hannel never had a Washington career in his life plans.

“This is the last place anybody who knows me would have expected me to be,” says the Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s majority staff director for the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee. 

Hannel retired from the Marine Corps in 2006 and was perfectly happy with his life in Pensacola, Fla., where he started working as a military liaison in Rep. Jeff Miller’s (R-Fla.) district office. When the Republicans won the House majority in the 2010 election, Miller, who became the committee chairman, asked Hannel to come to Washington.

“I said, ‘Absolutely not,’ ” Hannel says. “I just had no interest in leaving Pensacola.”

Miller asked again, and Hannel had a change of heart.

“I knew that I was pretty fortunate to be asked twice and decided that this is where I’m supposed to be,” he says. “I trust Congressman Miller’s judgment.”

So far, he says, the adjustment hasn’t been too difficult.

“Just from my previous life form, it was all about accountability in the Marine Corps,” Hannel says, “And so here I just think we’re pursuing the same thing.”

Hannel’s Ph.D. program requires him to study four hours every weeknight and 10 hours a day on the weekends. Despite the brutal schedule, he says he has enjoyed watching his work and studies play off each other.

“It’s been a very productive learning environment for me,” he says.

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