Inside the Office of Rep. Betty McCollum: Ben Peterson

Title: Scheduler

Age: 24

Hometown: Richfield, Minn.

Education: B.A. in political science from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio

Last job: Staff assistant for Rep. Betty McCollum

Biggest scheduling nightmare: The voting schedule.

Explanation I use most while rescheduling my boss: She had a last-minute scheduling conflict come up.

Best scheduling trick: Being “Minnesota Nice” to everyone I work with in the scheduling process.

Most embarrassing moment on Capitol Hill: As an intern in 2007, I was thrown up on while traveling home from work on the Metro.

Interests outside of work: Traveling both in and out of the United States; anything Minnesota-sports-related; going to the movies; racquetball.

For every inch of snow that fell in Washington in February, Ben Peterson’s life got more complicated.

Peterson, Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-Minn.) scheduler, says he had to figure out how to crunch two weeks into one to make up for the time lost during the record-setting storm.

“It was a lot of rescheduling, and it was a lot of reworking committee meetings, changing flights,” he says.

Peterson is used to it by now. He’s been McCollum’s scheduler since August 2008, and he has learned that he has to look at the job like “triage.”

“What comes next chronologically, and how has it changed?” he says. “That’s what I have to deal with first — even if something has changed at 5 o’clock. It’s not 4:30 yet.

“You do your best to stick to what the plan is, just because of the member’s time,” he says. “Everybody knows how difficult it is to get a member of Congress in a room somewhere, and things change.”

Peterson says this time of the year is the busiest, with his boss’s committee work at its height (McCollum is on the Budget and Appropriations committees) and 30 to 35 daily meetings going on in the office. (Peterson also keeps a master schedule of the goings-on of the congresswoman’s aides.)

Peterson got an early test of patience in the political arena in 2004 when he had to wait 10 hours to vote in his first presidential campaign. He was a student at Ohio’s Kenyon College, and there were only two voting booths serving the college’s 1,600 students, faculty and staff.

“Our polls closed after Alaska, and people were [still] voting at 2 in the morning,” he says. “It was exciting because it was the first election I could vote in, but it was also exciting because it was this horrific shared experience.”

That debacle didn’t leave Peterson disillusioned; he started with McCollum as an intern in the summer of 2007. Now, after having presided over her schedule for a year and a half, he lives by these words: “Be prepared in advance as much as you can.”

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