Lindsay Young knew this e-mail was trouble.
[IMGCAP(1)]A message from the staff director, arriving in Young’s inbox just after she had started as a staff assistant on the House Armed Services Committee, was a digital red flag. Sure enough, Young had accidentally sent her new boss a message, intended for someone else, which expressed some decidedly unprofessional romantic sentiments.
“I was just absolutely mortified,— Young said.
Still, Young said her semi-public embarrassment was part of a long learning
curve with an arc that has led her to her current position as the new military legislative assistant for freshman Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
Looking back on her career to this point, Young can still remember her sense of awe when she was first on the floor of the House during a vote, for a resolution she had worked on that supported the creation of a nonprofit for the children of National Guardsmen.
“It was just amazing to have 435 Members on the floor and see how they interact with each other,— Young said. “It was just phenomenal. That’s where the business of the country is done.—
[IMGCAP(2)]Despite the significance of the moment for Young, she acknowledged that seeing Congressmen in the flesh can be sobering, too.
“A lot of them needed to update their official photos,— she laughed. “They’re a little older than they thought they were.—
Young said that contact with Americans who have served their country in uniform — including her father, her grandfather and her fiance, Navy Capt. Mark Kavanaugh — has given her “total respect and admiration— for members of the armed services, and she said her primary goal in her new post is to ensure that “for all intents and purposes, we haven’t left anyone behind.—
“Plus, I love that they have the biggest budget to play with,— she added.
Also new to Begich’s office is Liz Brinkerhoff-Nottberg, legislative assistant for budget, appropriations and trade, who said the diversity of people she meets is the best part of living in Washington, D.C.
“I think it’s great,— she said. “I think it helps you to understand people, especially in this job. You’re here to help people and fight the good fight.—
Brinkerhoff-Nottberg formerly worked for then-Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), where she said her knowledge of Garden State politics and her native New Jersey accent were prized qualities, particularly in recording the office voice-mail greeting.
Upon moving to Washington, she became a tour coordinator for Corzine, where her pronunciation of certain words led to her being inundated with requests to say the word coffee and questions about whether she had connections to the mob. (In fact, she attended the same college and high school as “The Sopranos— star James Gandolfini.)
But Brinkerhoff-Nottberg said she had found a strong support network among her fellow tour coordinators, who hailed from all over the country and quickly became her close friends.
“When you first get here, it can be a scary and overwhelming place, and they helped me through it,— she said. “When you need a contact in another office to get you something or you’re having a bad day, we all help each other professionally.—
Throughout her time in Corzine’s office and also with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Brinkerhoff-Nottberg became deeply involved in two causes — Darfur and armed services members who suffer from traumatic brain injury — that she said helped her feel that her work could produce tangible results.
She noted her work to organize a National Weekend of Reflection, an event that sought to draw public attention to the violence in Darfur.
“I just felt like for the first time, I was really helping people,— she said. “I thought, This job is awesome.’—
Brinkerhoff-Nottberg is hopeful that her role in Begich’s office, where she will be involved in allocating funds for various projects, will be a similar experience.
“There’s a lot of people in Alaska who are poverty-stricken,— she said. “I’m hoping I can bring some meritorious projects home to Alaska that can help people in a significant way.—
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