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The Jumbo Combo & Co.

When Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) arrived to begin his first term in January, he neglected to tell Hill Climbers about his staff. So Climbers has decided to make up for lost time. [IMGCAP(1)]

Jason Gross is heading up Courtney’s office as the chief of staff. Gross previously worked for then-Rep. Samuel Gejdenson (D-Conn.) and on the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, which advocates for State Department and foreign assistance funding.

Gross grew up in Chevy Chase, Md., and loves soccer, especially D.C. United.

He has a longtime connection to Courtney and claims that he and Courtney are the only Congressman/chief of staff combo that went to the same university — Tufts, near Boston.

Given that Tufts students are known as “Jumbos,” Climbers has coined them the Jumbo Combo.

Sheila Duffy is Courtney’s legislative director. She joined the Congressman after serving as legislative assistant for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) for 10 years.

“Courtney is very energetic, and great to work for,” Duffy said.

She is from Bristol, Conn., but received her postsecondary degrees in the Washington, D.C., area, earning an undergraduate degree from Georgetown and an MBA from American University. In her spare time, she likes to travel and attend concerts.

Neil McKiernan, Courtney’s senior legislative assistant, is from West Hartford, Conn., and primarily deals with military affairs. McKiernan previously spent three years as a legislative assistant for Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) and was a staff assistant for Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.).

The spunky 26-year-old graduated from Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., in 2003 with a degree in political science. He was president of the Roger Williams student government and was involved with the College Democrats and the resident assistant program.

In D.C., McKiernan is on the board of the Connecticut State Society, a social networking group. He also plays on the society’s softball team. [IMGCAP(2)]

“We’re not going to the World Series,” he admitted.

Brian Farber is Courtney’s bubbly communications director and is originally from Mount Sinai, N.Y. He previously worked for Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) as a press secretary and legislative assistant.

Farber earned an English degree from the University of Buffalo in 1998 and a master’s in education from Dowling College on Long Island in New York in 2003. He worked in the technology industry from 1998 to 2001 in New York City and Atlanta. When he is not working, he enjoys camping.

Ivy Mackin is Courtney’s legislative assistant, focusing on health care and financial issues. She previously served the Congressman as part of his election campaign. She has worked on about 15 other campaigns, including the Senatorial campaign of former Rep. Brad Carson (D-Okla.) and Gen. Wesley Clark’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mackin, 26, is a 2003 graduate of Syracuse University with degrees in political science and public relations.

Maija Welton’s name comes from Scandinavia, where her family has its roots. She has assumed the dual roles of legislative correspondent and staff assistant for Courtney. Her responsibilities include writing letters and Congressional statements.

“Joe is extremely accessible, very down to earth, and just a pleasure to work with,” Welton said.

Welton is from Hereford, Ariz., but went to school on the East Coast. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., in 2006 with a degree in economics.

In her spare time, Welton likes playing tennis and going for walks with her boyfriend.

Bret Kupfer is a legislative correspondent and staff assistant for Courtney, taking care of mail management, tours and letter-writing. From Tolland, Conn., he also worked on the Congressman’s campaign and before that as a legal assistant for Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in D.C.

“Being from his district, it’s a great opportunity to help people you’re familiar with,” Kupfer said of working in Courtney’s office. “There’s just a lot of action going on.”

Kupfer graduated from the State University of New York at New Paltz in May 2005 with a degree in political science.

When he’s not working, he likes reading, running and watching University of Connecticut basketball.

Tracey Roberts is three weeks into her job as Courtney’s scheduler after working as a legislative assistant for a lobbying firm for two years. She also was an intern for Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). Roberts is a 2005 graduate of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she majored in political science.

In D.C., she enjoys dancing and volunteering. She works with For Love of Children, a tutoring organization, and The Reading Connection, a literacy program. Roberts, 24, originally is from New Haven, Conn.

She said she thoroughly enjoys working with Courtney and hopes to eventually have a hand in his policy work.

“The first time I met him, he was just so laid-back and easy to talk to,” she said. “He’s just a genuinely nice guy.”

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