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Hill Climbers: Hoyer’s Heroes

For the past eight years, Stacey Farnen Bernards has been doing her Congressional dream job, in one respect or another. Acting on some good professional advice she was given while working for a communications firm in 2001, she applied for a job with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — and has been with his office ever since.

[IMGCAP(1)]“A friend and mentor told me to make a list of whom I would like to work for when I was looking to return to the Hill. Hoyer was at the top of my list,— she said. “Then I got lucky. I was under-qualified, but I had good recommendations.—

Bernards, who holds degrees in foreign affairs and French from the University of Virginia, started her career in politics with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1998, and was hired as a staff assistant to Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) after that. She was soon promoted to deputy press secretary, but left for Home Front Communications, a public relations firm, in order to bolster her knowledge and experience.

After about 10 months with Home Front, a position with Hoyer’s office opened and Bernards decided to go for it.

She was hired as Hoyer’s press secretary, and moved with him when he was elected Minority Whip in 2002 and Majority Leader in 2006. That led to a promotion to communications director in 2005, and the addition of the title senior adviser in 2008. Most recently, she was promoted to deputy chief of staff.

Bernards, who grew up in Michigan, said Hoyer was at the top of her list of Representatives for whom she wanted to work because, “He seemed like a good, active, smart Member.—

Now that she has worked with him for several years, that impression has deepened.

“He’s a wonderful boss,— Bernards said. “I’ve learned how to be graceful under pressure and how to be magnanimous in defeat.—

As deputy chief of staff, Bernards helps determine the Majority Leader’s legislative priorities and oversees various aspects of the office, including the policy and communications shops.

[IMGCAP(2)]After eight years of working with the press team, Bernards sometimes has to remind herself that she is now in a new role. At staff meetings, for example, someone will ask a question of the communications team, and Bernards has the urge to reply for them.

It’s a habit she’s trying to break.

“I need to be looking at the big picture every day, and letting the communication staff do their jobs,— she said.

Among those who are still working exclusively in communications is Katie Grant, Hoyer’s deputy press secretary.

Grant has been with the Maryland Representative for three years. She was a communications assistant on his 2006 campaign, and then became press assistant in his Congressional office before being promoted to deputy press secretary.

As such, Grant is the primary spokesperson on the floor schedule, the economy, fiscal issues, national security and foreign policy, among other assignments.

Grant has a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from Georgia Tech and a master’s in political science from American University. Two stints doing press internships told her this was the direction she wanted for her career, and she has stuck with it.

“I really like getting to learn and speak about different issues every day,— she said.

Stephanie Lundberg is working alongside Grant as Hoyer’s press secretary and national spokesperson on topics including health care, energy and the environment, housing and labor. She also manages Maryland press and communications.

She and Grant oversee day-to-day operations and are involved in coordinating Caucus message strategies with other leadership offices.

Originally from Deerfield, Ill., and a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Lundberg has been with Hoyer’s office since 2007. She worked on political campaigns and as press secretary for Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) before working for Hoyer.

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