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Hill Climbers: Two New Tellers

These days, it goes without saying that the nation’s financial situation is less than ideal. Luckily for Democrats, two new staffers on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee bring years of experience to help tackle the country’s financial crisis.

In June, Kirstin Brost became the committee’s new communications director.

{IMGCAP(1)]Brost came to the Banking Committee with extensive experience working in communications. Immediately prior to this job, she worked as communications director for the House Appropriations Committee, a position she held under her hometown Congressman, Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.).

Before entering the world of committee work, Brost first honed her political chops as an intern with Obey while in college. Graduating from George Washington University in 1999, she then interned in the office of political consultant James Carville followed by work on the campaign of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. Working across the country in a number of states, Brost said campaigning helped her appreciate politics in a new light. “Campaign work really connects you with people on a personal level,— she said.

After the election, Brost made her way back to Capitol Hill with a job as communications director for Rep. Rosa

DeLauro (D-Conn.), in the Office of the Assistant to the Democratic Leader. This position was followed by a stint as communications director for the Washington State Democratic Party from 2003 to 2004.

Well-versed in politics both on and off the Hill, Brost jumped at the chance to work under Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

“I first met Chris Dodd in 2003, the day Rep. Rosa DeLauro lost her race to be House Democratic Caucus chair[woman],— she said. “The staff was devastated, and the Senator came in and told us how important our work in public service was and gave each of us a big bear hug.—

In addition to Dodd’s presence on the committee, Brost said she also did not want to miss out on history. “As chairman of the Banking Committee, Sen. Dodd is trying to tackle reforms to help get the country out of its financial meltdown,— she said. “I couldn’t pass up the historical opportunity or to help somebody who really seemed to have the ability to make a difference.—

In and out of Washington, D.C., for the past 14 years, Brost said she has had a number of memorable experiences, but watching Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) becoming Speaker in 2007 stands out.

[IMGCAP(2)]“For me, watching the swearing-in was really a combination of understanding how important this was for Democrats and appreciating the historical significance of her becoming the first woman Speaker,— she said.

A native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Brost said she knew in high school that she wanted to work in politics: “When I was 17, my mom and I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and she told me, This is a place where things happen.’—

In addition to Brost’s hiring, a veteran Dodd staffer, Justine Sessions, joined the committee’s press office in April. Sessions moved from her position as the Senator’s deputy press secretary to press secretary for the committee. Sessions had been Dodd’s deputy press secretary for two years.

A native of New Hartford, Conn., Sessions joined the Senator’s office shortly after graduating from Washington and Lee University in 2005. Hired as a staff assistant, Sessions advanced to legislative correspondent and then deputy press secretary.

While working in Dodd’s personal office, Sessions was often able to travel with the Senator around her home state. She said that the experience allowed her to appreciate Connecticut in a new light. “A lot of people think that everyone in Connecticut is the same, but that is not really true,— she said. “Traveling across the state with the Senator and working with constituents in his office allowed me to gain a whole new appreciation for complexities and quirks of the state.—

Sessions says her college internship experience with Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) confirmed a desire to work in politics. “After the internship, I knew I wanted to work on Capitol Hill. That was my only option,— she said.

But it isn’t her only skill. In high school, Sessions became a certified emergency medical technician and then went on to volunteer at a local emergency medical station throughout college. Although she no longer has the time to volunteer, she says that the skills she learned as an EMT recently came into use again. “Several weeks ago, I was able to help a woman who fainted on a Metro train,— she said.

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