Whether Allison Brooks is leaving her mark on Capitol Hill around the necks of its female employees or through her work in a Senator’s office, a part of her will always be on the Hill.
Brooks, a former senior staff assistant to then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), now owns a jewelry making business that she runs out of her D.C. home.
Brooks worked for Cleland from October 1999 until April 2002, when she says she simply burned out. When she left the Hill in April, the Senator was gearing up for the 2002 election and Brooks felt that she wasn’t up to the challenge of campaigning.
“You do your duties every single day. It just got to be too much,” said Brooks. “I wanted something more and I just couldn’t see myself going anywhere in the office.”
Cleland lost his seat to now-Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).
After graduating from the University of Georgia in May 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science, Brooks moved back to her native Virginia and began her job search. While working part-time in real estate, she was offered jobs with CNN, News Channel 8 and in Cleland’s office.
“The Hill has always been a way of life I could identify with,” said Brooks. “Also, Cleland’s offer was the most lucrative.”
When Brooks accepted the job in Cleland’s office in 1999 as a press assistant she says it was the natural career path for her because she had been attending events on the Hill with her parents since she was 10 years old.
After working as a press assistant for one year, Brooks moved into the position of senior staff assistant, where she stayed until she left the office. After she left, she enrolled in jewelry-making classes at the Smithsonian to relieve stress she was experiencing during her quest for a new job.
“I decided to rediscover or find myself,” said Brooks. “I did a lot of soul searching.”
Brooks began wearing the necklaces she made in class and women offered to buy them straight off her neck. Brooks took this as a sign and started her jewelry-making business, Queen Bee Designs, in August 2002.
“I’ve always been a creative person and had a real flair for fashion, especially jewelry,” Brooks said.
Brooks started Queen Bee Designs as a one-woman shop, working out of her home and designing pieces only for select clients. Today, she employs five women part-time and has her necklaces in retail stores in the D.C. area, but she does still work out of her home.
“We have a very laid-back environment — we watch a lot of Lifetime TV,” she said. “When I’m feeling fancy I call [my house] my studio.”
Although it appears that Brooks has made a 180-degree turn as far as her career goes, she still uses skills she learned on the Hill. While working in the Senator’s office she says she had to be able to talk to anybody, from inmates to constituents to other Senators. She says her current clientele is equally, if not more, demanding and diverse.
While Brooks’ background in journalism and politics doesn’t directly apply to her current line of work, she keeps up on politics and may someday return to journalism.
“I haven’t ruled that out yet because my heart is still very much in journalism, particularly broadcast news,” Brooks said.
Right now though, Brooks is focusing all of her energy on designing necklaces that will find their way into wardrobes of women in every area of the Capital City — including the Hill.
“Every woman wants to look her best, and I think my necklaces help them achieve that.”