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Hill Climbers: The Outdoors Life

Getting along with your boss never hurts. But for aspiring Hill staffers, sharing a common interest can be that final push in landing in a desired office.

[IMGCAP(1)]Tom Crosson and Gordon Neal share more than one thing in common with their boss, Rep. Rob Wittman (R). Not only do all three men come from Virginia, but they also enjoy activities that are not among the most common thrills in Washington. They love any manner of outdoor activities — hiking, fishing, hunting, you name it.

In August, Crosson, 24, was promoted

to press secretary. He said his goal of working on the Hill has made him a good fit in Wittman’s office.

“A lot of people who work on the Hill don’t have the opportunity to work for someone from their home state,— said Crosson, a native of Fairfax Station.

A former Eagle Scout, Crosson said more than a love for his home state has made Wittman’s office the right place for him.

“I share his views on fiscal restraint and conservation,— Crosson said — and a love for the outdoors. Crosson was quick to highlight Wittman’s love of hunting and fishing.

“He has quite the collection in the office here,— Crosson said, referring to Wittman’s hunting and fishing spoils, which are prominently mounted in the Member’s office.

Crosson comes to the job of press secretary as a veteran Wittman staffer. In 2008 Crosson served as Wittman’s special assistant, and he was promoted to deputy press secretary in January.

[IMGCAP(2)]A 2007 graduate of Purdue University, Crosson said he had the goal of working on the Hill at a young age. While in high school, he began interning and volunteering with political campaigns and on the Hill.

Neal, 22, who was hired as staff assistant in September, said he also enjoyed working with a member of the Virginia delegation.

“I love the commonwealth of Virginia, and I wanted to be in a Virginia Congressional office,— said Neal, a native of Fredericksburg.

Neal said he was also fortunate to arrive in an office with fellow outdoors enthusiasts. “Rep. Wittman and I share an interest in the outdoors, so that definitely increased my desire to work in this office,— Neal said.

Wittman and Neal are members of Ducks Unlimited, a national wetlands conservation group.

Like Crosson, Neal used political internships on his track to the Hill. While a junior in college, Neal landed a summer internship with Wittman.

After graduating from Hampden-Sydney College this spring, Neal went on to serve another internship with Wittman in the fall. But the second time around, the internship was cut short, lasting for just weeks before Neal was hired as staff assistant.

“Fredericksburg is one of the larger centers in the Congressman’s district, so it’s been cool to have connections from home while here,— Neal said.

As much as Crosson and Neal boast of their love for their home state and the outdoors, both staffers have found a good balance living in Washington.

Neal attended small, rural schools for college and high school, so coming to D.C. has made for a nice change of scenery.

“There is always something to do in D.C.,— he said. “You’ve got people from all over America and the world, really. It’s fun to meet so many different folks.—

But for all Washington has to offer, they both know they are never too far from the great outdoors.

“I like the size of the city and that you’re two hours from the ocean and two hours from the mountains,— Crosson said. “You really can’t ask for much more.—

Washington’s relative proximity to the outdoors has allowed both staffers to continue indulging in one of their favorite pastimes: fishing.

Crosson said Wittman’s office has talked about visiting menhaden fisheries in the Congressman’s district, only a few hours from Washington.

“Menhaden fish are native to the East Coast and are used in all sorts of products — poultry feed, omega-3 oils and even plastics,— Crosson said. “We just want to get out there and observe the fisheries in the district sometime.—

As for Neal, visits home to Fredericksburg have allowed him to teach himself fly fishing on the Rappahannock River.

“I’m a terrible teacher,— Neal said. “Fly fishing is all a matter of the technique of casting and timing. It’s a lot more involved than just sitting in a canoe and throwing out a line.—

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