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Hill Climbers: Joe Wilson’s Warriors

It’s Thursday afternoon and Rep. Joe Wilson’s office is packed. Admirers from the adjoining “House call— rally have descended on the South Carolinian’s office, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Republican lawmaker, or at least to see where he works. Earlier in the day, Wilson spoke at the rally on the steps of the Capitol.

[IMGCAP(1)]In the midst of the madness, Wilson’s staff busily scurries about in an attempt to maintain some semblance of order.

Such is the life of a Wilson staffer. For those new to the office, the adjustment hasn’t just been the typical new job acclimation.

Pepper Pennington joined the Wilson staff as communications director one week ago. Pennington came to work for the Palmetto State lawmaker from the office of Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), where she was most recently press secretary.

Pennington, 27, knows a thing or two about working for outspoken lawmakers. Before joining the Broun office in January, Pennington handled press for then-Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.). Pennington started as Feeney’s communications director in 2006 and held that position until the Member’s loss to Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D) in 2008.

“We were heartbroken at the loss,— Pennington said. “It was especially painful because he was my hometown Congressman.— It was also a poignant loss because Feeney gave Pennington her first job on the Hill. A 2004 graduate of the University of Florida, Pennington worked as Feeney’s scheduler from 2004 to 2005. Pennington briefly worked as a legislative assistant/legislative correspondent to then-Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Va.) in 2005 before coming back to the Feeney office to become communications director.

Pennington couldn’t resist the opportunity to join Wilson’s staff. “I have been fortunate to work for common-sense conservatives in all of my jobs,— Pennington said. “Rep. Wilson’s office has a great reputation and it’s a good fit.—

Pennington hails from Orlando and counts herself a big fan of the Orlando Magic. Her allegiance to her alma mater’s Gators doesn’t get in the way of friendly jabs from her fellow staffers, who are trying to attach the nickname “Doc— (in reference to Dr Pepper soda) to the newbie staffer.

“I keep telling them that they can try if they want to,— Pennington said. “We’ll give it time to see if it sticks.—

Also new to the Wilson office is Brian Eisele, who was hired as the legislative assistant for military and veterans issues in October.

[IMGCAP(2)]Eisele, 26, enjoys having heavy artillery as part of his portfolio. A native of Aiken, S.C., Eisele will be using some artillery of his own when he goes home to hunt ducks over the Christmas holiday.

Eisele came to his new job from the office of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), where he worked as a legislative assistant on education and judicial issues. Eisele joined the office of Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) as an intern in the fall of 2006.

Joining the Wilson office is a bit of a homecoming for Eisele, who gained his first green badge as a staff assistant for Wilson in 2007. After several months, Eisele headed to the Senate to work for DeMint.

A 2005 graduate of the University of South Carolina, Eisele tried something very different after leaving college: working on a South Carolina horse farm. “It was a lot of piling hay and hauling,— Eisele said.

Eisele plans to fly home this weekend to fetch his pride and joy: a 1975 Toyota Land Cruiser. “I’ve been trying to bring it up here for the past three years,— he said.

Also joining the Wilson office by way of South Carolina is Baker Elmore, who was hired as a special assistant in September. Elmore, 22, came to the Wilson office after interning for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) over the summer.

A native of Cheraw, S.C., Elmore is also a graduate of USC, where he earned a degree in political science in May.

Elmore played golf for USC all four years of his undergraduate career. While at USC, Elmore was also a four-time member of the All-SEC Academic Team.

In 2007 and 2008, Elmore qualified and played in the U.S. Amateur Championship, one of nearly 280 amateur golfers who qualified out of 15,000 who tried. “My last year in college I lived with three teammates,— he said. “They are all playing professionally now with signed contracts. That’s been kind of hard to watch.—

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