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Welcome Back War Hero

With promotions, appointments, office changes and the welcoming home of an Iraqi war veteran, Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s (D-Ark.) office has been full of activity since returning from the August recess.

Jason Smedley, 25, returned to Lincoln’s office this month from active military duty in Iraq to take on the job of communications and projects coordinator in the Senator’s Washington office. The Purple Heart veteran returned from the Persian Gulf in mid-April after sustaining battle wounds near Nasariyah and since his recovery has been welcomed back to Lincoln’s office. Smedley previously served as a constituent relations representative for Lincoln in 2002 before his reserve unit was activated to go overseas in January.

A Little Rock, Ark., native, Smedley first served in Lincoln’s office as an intern. He is currently completing his bachelor’s degree in English at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Steve Patterson, Lincoln’s chief of staff, has permanently relocated to the Senator’s Little Rock office, where he will continue his work in the position he’s held since 1999. Patterson, who will also manage Lincoln’s re-election campaign next year, is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. He has been serving on Capitol Hill since 1981, beginning his career in politics as chief of staff to then-Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.) and then as chief of staff to Lincoln when she represented Arkansas’ 1st district. Before returning to Lincoln’s office during her Senate campaign, Patterson, 52, also served as chief of staff to Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas).

Moving up from her position as legislative director to deputy chief of staff in Lincoln’s D.C. office is Kelly Bingel, 36. Bingel’s service to Lincoln dates back to when she served Lincoln’s House office as press secretary. A 1989 graduate of Louisiana State University, Bingel earned her law degree from Georgetown University in 1999.

Filling Bingel’s shoes as legislative director is Jim Stowers, 34. Stowers has been a member of Lincoln’s staff since 1999, when he was hired as a legislative correspondent. Most recently he served as legislative assistant for education, labor and judicial issues. A native of Bentonville, Ark., Stowers received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and his law degree from Washington University.

Lori Neal, 28, has been promoted from her position as legislative correspondent to take over Bingel’s old duties. Neal has worked for Lincoln since 2002 after graduating from Columbia University, where she earned a master’s of public administration. The Lawton,

Okla., native earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1997.

The Land of Opportunity Senator’s newest legislative correspondent is Gregory Willis, 31. Willis, who prior to joining Lincoln’s staff worked as an attorney in private practice and at a government affairs firm in Washington, D.C., will handle judiciary, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security issues for Lincoln. Hailing from Luxora, Ark., Willis is a 1995 graduate of Morehouse College and received his law degree from Georgia State University College of Law in 1998.

Katie Laning, 22, and Amber Elbert, 23, round out Lincoln’s recent appointments.

Laning has stepped into the role of Lincoln’s newest constituent relations specialist. A native of Little Rock, Ark., Laning is not completely new to the office, having served the Senator as an intern last summer. Laning graduated this past May from the University of Virginia with degrees in both government and Spanish.

Elbert, who was also an intern, is the new legislative correspondent handling labor, welfare and immigration, among other issues. A native of Horseshoe Bend, Ark., Elbert graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 2002 with a degree in psychology and political science.

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