Aide’s choice: politics or veterinary science


Yet Brinton, 25, has found a home on Capitol Hill and says she loves it. She was promoted from Rep. Nick Rahall’s (D-W.Va.) staff assistant to his press secretary in June.

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Growing up in Aurora, Ill., Brinton nurtured competing interests — her love for animals and an interest in government. She was a self-described “big student-government nerd,” and her work in that arena culminated in a project at Illinois State University, where she and a fellow undergraduate created a campus student involvement center. The center helped Brinton’s peers to be matched with organizations and groups of interest to them.

At the same time, Brinton was having memorable and educational experiences as a veterinary technician, assisting with surgeries, giving vaccinations and explaining to clients how to take care of their animals, among other tasks.

One standout assignment came in helping rehabilitate a puppy that didn’t have the use of his hind legs. She and her colleagues had to teach him to get around using a cart.

“He learned, and he was faster than anything I have ever seen,” she says. “It’s amazing how adaptable dogs are. Animals can be inspirational, I think.”

But by the time Brinton finished her senior year in college, she felt a stronger pull to government and politics. She had studied abroad in Sweden, an experience that further encouraged her interest in politics, especially as it bears on international relations. And in talking with many of her friends who shared her interests, she concluded that she should listen to her instincts.

“I kind of realized, ‘Wait a minute, I can do [politics] for my job,’ ” she says. But she didn’t let go of her veterinary dream without giving it some thought.

“Some things are hard to give up, especially when that was what you thought you were going to do your whole life,” she says.

Brinton charged ahead with her government ambitions, starting a political science graduate program at the University of Illinois-Springfield that sent her to the Illinois General Assembly for a year as a Senate intern.

Once she completed her time in Springfield, Brinton knew she wanted to make it to Washington. She landed an internship at the United Nations Foundation’s press office last year, and in January, she joined Rahall’s office.

Brinton is finishing her master’s degree coursework this fall at George Washington University, and she still stays involved in the U.N. Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to prevent malaria.

The congressional schedule has left little time for Brinton to continue working with animals on a regular basis, but she still offers help where she can. She had concurrent dog- and cat-sitting gigs over the Labor Day weekend, and she has become accustomed to fielding calls from pet-owning friends.

“My friends call me all the time for advice. It’s kind of funny,” she says. “But I usually say, ‘You know, I’d talk to your veterinarian, because I’m not actually qualified to tell you.’ ”