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Hill Climbers: The Chocolate Connection

They say that chocolate can make everything better. In Rep. Bill Posey’s (R-Fla.) office, that’s just about true. The Congressman’s wife, Katie, is known to drop off brownies from time to time. And Posey’s staffers are eternally grateful.

[IMGCAP(1)]Nathanael Ferguson said his new job as a legislative correspondent has been a good fit. But the Congressman’s wife, the office “sweetheart,— has turned a good thing into perfect. “I’m no brownie expert, but they’re pretty good,— Ferguson said.

In July, Ferguson, 30, was hired after working as an intern. Ferguson’s duties include drafting constituent correspondence and covering fisheries and Chinese drywall issues for Posey. A shortage of domestic drywall after Hurricane Katrina led to heavy use of imported Chinese drywall in Florida. Much of the drywall would later prove defective, causing problems with sulfur corrosion. Some 93 percent of cases of drywall contamination have occurred in Florida.

Government was hardly Ferguson’s first career. While in college at the University of Texas, he worked his way through school as a guide with a nonprofit student organization and took teenagers across the world on mission trips.

Because Ferguson had a job during college, it took him a little longer than most to graduate, but he managed to do so in 2005 with a degree in history. Immediately before moving to the Hill, he worked as an operations manager for a Virginia-based travel agency.

For Ferguson, the 2008 election cycle had a big impact on his career pursuits. “I volunteered with the McCain campaign and several local and Congressional campaigns last year,— he said. “That was really the turning point in my wanting to be involved on a full-time basis.—

Ferguson is a native of Pelican, Alaska, a town in the southeast part of the state. He grew up on a fishing boat with his parents and was home-schooled throughout his education.

“We fished and sold halibut and salmon,— he said. “We would then sell them to a fish processing plant, which would then sell the fish on the market.—

[IMGCAP(2)]Off the Hill, Ferguson said “the best three years— of his life have been spent with his wife, Sarah.

Also new to the Posey office is Nicole Ruth, who was hired as a legislative assistant early last year. Ruth, 29, covers transportation, education, telecommunications, census and social issues for Posey.

Ruth first started on the Hill as a staff assistant for the Republican office of the House Administration Committee. Just before joining the Posey office, Ruth worked as a legislative correspondent for then-Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho), who lost his bid for re-election in 2008.

“That was a rough couple of months,— Ruth said. “It seemed like every Republican in D.C. was looking for a job at the same time.—

After sending out “tons of résumés,— Ruth was offered a job with Posey. Not surprisingly, the staffer gushes just as effusively about her boss as his wife.

“She’s probably the sweetest person you’ll ever meet,— Ruth said. “Her brownies are famous in the office.—

Ruth is a native of York, Pa., and said she appreciates that the Keystone State isn’t too far from Washington. Ruth is a 2005 graduate of York College of Pennsylvania and earned a degree in political science there.

The staffer has survived some harrowing experiences. Ruth worked as a bank teller for six years while in college and graduate school. When she moved to Washington for graduate school at American University, Ruth went through a robbery while working at a bank in the Farragut North area two years ago.

Fortunately, the robber was eventually caught (and is now in prison), but the experience oddly had a positive effect on Ruth. “It really lit a fire under me to do something worthwhile, and shortly thereafter I started looking for work on the Hill,— she said.

A third change to the Posey office is Erin Houg, who started as office manager in October. The staffer primarily works to manage the district office and the Congressman’s schedule in addition to running the office internship program.

Houg, 29, first started out on the Hill in 2006 with Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.). Houg interned in the Feeney office for two months before being hired as an office manager. From there, she moved to work with Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) early this year.

“I wanted to go back to the Florida delegation, and I had worked with Rep. Posey’s current chief of staff in Congressman Feeney’s office,— Houg said. The staffer’s rejoining the Florida delegation has felt just right. And, of course, Houg’s praise for the Congressman’s wife came quickly.

“She is so grateful and goes above and beyond to help the staff,— Houg said. “For nights that we have late tele-town halls, she brings us all dinner.—

Houg is originally from Kirkland, Wash., and followed an unusual educational path. At the age of 15, Houg took the required state testing to finish high school and started college. She would earn an associate degree at the age of 17.

After finishing her associate degree, Houg took on a number of different career pursuits. Four years ago, Houg and her husband, Brian, moved from the West Coast to Washington, D.C., to help start City Church DC. The couple still attends the Tenleytown church every Sunday and Wednesday.

And with a 13-year break from school, Houg is currently in pursuit of a bachelor’s in business with online classes from Regent University.

The final change in Posey’s office includes Jennifer Stauffer, who was promoted to press/staff assistant in September.

Stauffer previously worked as an intern for then-Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), and then was hired as a staff assistant for Posey, a position she has held since January.

Stauffer is a native of Waynesburg, Pa., and a 2003 graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. She started her professional career in education and worked as a teacher for five years. Stauffer’s experience in education first took her to teach a variety of age groups in a Montessori school. Immediately before coming to the Hill, she taught science to seventh- and eight-graders.

“I actually liked teaching that age group,— she said. “It was very rewarding because relationships you can build with students. They need a person to stay with them and encourage them.—

But an unfortunate pay cut would break up Stauffer’s career in education. Stauffer’s interest in politics and government made her move to the Hill a natural progression. After a week of sending out résumés, she received an internship in the Weldon office. After the Welson internship ended, Stauffer was hired as a staff assistant for Posey.

Stauffer is also a member of the Women’s Congressional Staff Association, the only bipartisan women’s group on the Hill.

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