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Hill Climbers: On Wisconsin

Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) is one of a handful of physicians in Congress. Although legislating on Capitol Hill is a far cry from practicing medicine, for Kagen, being a U.S. Representative at least has not meant leaving his home state behind.

[IMGCAP(1)]Kagen’s office is home to several native Wisconsinites, making the physician’s time in Washington the next best thing to being home in the Badger State.

In early October, Brian Van Rooy, 24, was promoted to legislative correspondent, moving from his earlier position as staff assistant. Kagen and Van Rooy hail from the same town in Wisconsin: Appleton.

But Van Rooy’s experience with Kagen is not limited to Capitol Hill, or even the same hometown. While in college, Van Rooy served as an intern with Kagen’s first campaign for Congress in 2006.

Van Rooy said his proximity to the district and excitement over participating in his “first real election of age— prompted that decision.

Kagen’s “being a member of my home community and not a career politician was a big draw,— Van Rooy said.

Van Rooy’s first experience in politics would pay off. After graduating from St. Norbert College in 2008, where he earned degrees in political science and leadership studies, Van Rooy was asked to come to Capitol Hill.

“The position of staff assistant was vacant, and they asked if I was willing to move to Washington,— he said.

[IMGCAP(2)]Van Rooy said he has come to appreciate putting his political science degree to use. Visiting Chinatown’s restaurants and attending the Obama inauguration have not hurt either.

“I was in charge of handing out tickets to our constituents for the inauguration,— he said. “Meeting the hundreds of people from Wisconsin who came all the way here for that event was amazing.—

Although Van Roy said he might eventually pursue a graduate degree on a part-time basis, he is certain to be on the Hill for the good future.

Should you run into him, Van Rooy could probably beat you at one thing off the Hill — soccer. While an undergraduate at St. Norbert, Van Rooy played soccer for the school’s team.

“I decided to play for [St. Norbert in] De Pere at the last minute,— Van Rooy said. “My older brother had played and I just wanted to continue with the sport.—

Another recent change to the Kagen office is the addition of Brittany Taylor, 24, who took over the position of staff assistant from Van Rooy.

A native of Green Bay, Taylor said a geographical decision eventually led her to Kagen’s office.

“I had a choice to nanny in England for a family I worked for in Madison or move to Washington, D.C., to find a job,— she said. “I decided to come here and start my career sooner [rather] than later and let my younger sister go in my place in England.—

A 2008 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Taylor does not regret that decision, even if it took a little while to land a job.

After forgoing the opportunity in England, Taylor came to Washington and landed an internship at the National Association of Manufacturers in the spring. She followed that time with a summer internship in Kagen’s office.

After the internship, her persistence paid off. “I took my résumé around to all the Wisconsin offices,— she said. “I was familiar with the Congressman’s reputation as a doctor in the Green Bay/Appleton area but wasn’t expecting to [gain] a position in my home district.—

Joining the Kagen office has also meant more to Taylor than sharing a home state. “I come from a family of physicians,— she said. “It’s something that I can’t seem to get away from.—

With aunts and uncles in the Washington area, Taylor said she has already learned a lot about the city in her several months here, including where many of the District’s tastiest restaurants are located.

But between participating in pickup volleyball and the Wisconsin Alumni Association, Taylor said she still has a lot more exploring to do.

And learning the intricacies of the District would be difficult to do if she were a nanny thousands of miles away. “My younger sister had a great time as a nanny, but I am pleased to be here in my home district’s office,— Taylor said.

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