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Hill Climbers: Behind the Scenes

Some people thrive on being the public face of a political campaign, enjoying the spotlight and being out front. But after giving that a shot at the ripe age of 21, Jodi Seth discovered she could work more effectively behind the scenes.

[IMGCAP(1)]The new communications director for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was working in the mayor’s office in her hometown of Central Falls, R.I., when she decided to run for city council. Interning for the mayor and volunteering on his election campaign inspired her to jump into government herself.

“I liked what the mayor was doing for the city and thought I could contribute something as well,— she said in an e-mail. “It was a great experience. I enjoyed getting out and meeting the people in my district and listening to their thoughts on how we could make the city a better place to live.—

She lost to the incumbent but said it gave her an appreciation for the demands of a political campaign.

“Running for office was a great experience and I’m glad I did it, but I’ve learned that you can accomplish a great deal behind the scenes,— she said.

And that is exactly what she has done since leaving Central Falls for Washington, D.C. She had worked on several campaigns in Rhode Island but thought she would try out life on the Hill for a bit when a job as Sen. Jack Reed’s (D-R.I.) deputy press secretary came up in 1997.

Not only was that her first Congressional staff position, but it also gave her the opportunity to meet former President Bill Clinton.

Seth was filling in for Reed’s press secretary at an event to promote the new Democratic agenda, and the former commander in chief was in attendance. After the event, he stayed to greet staff and Seth had her first face-to-face interaction with a president when they said hello and shook hands.

“I ran back to my desk and called everyone I knew,— she said.

Seth received her master’s degree in journalism from American University and her bachelor’s in communications from Rhode Island College.

[IMGCAP(2)]After starting out as Reed’s press secretary, Seth also worked in the press office of former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) and was communications director for former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Since January, Seth has been overseeing the communications shop in Kerry’s office. Though she had never met Kerry before interviewing for the job, Seth was a supporter of the one-time presidential candidate.

“He is remarkably intelligent, and he values the work of his staff,— she said. “I had never met him in person except for the interview process, but I was familiar with his work and an admirer.—

Sharing New England roots just sweetens the job.

“As a New Englander, it’s nice to be home with the Senator from Red Sox Nation,— she said in an e-mail. “I grew up within spitting distance of the Red Sox Triple A ball club in Pawtucket and hearing the accents in our office, I really do feel like I’ve come home.—

When Seth took the job with Reed, she hadn’t planned on staying in Washington forever. Because her whole family lived in Rhode Island, Seth figured she would get a few years of experience on the Hill and then move back to her home state. More than 10 years later, she’s still here. Who can blame her? She fell in love with the city, found professional success and met her husband, Andrew.

He’s a lobbyist and a political junkie — maybe even more so than his wife (according to her). They’re big on collecting political paraphernalia — so much so that Seth said her boss might be a little shocked if he ever came to her home.

“We often joke about how embarrassing it would be if John Kerry ever came to our house and saw all the bobble heads, books and campaign posters of himself,— she said.

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