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Hill Climbers: From Intern to Walk-In Privilege in Two Months

Kelly Drennon didn’t expect her first job — as a scheduler and assistant for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — to be so integral to the lawmaker’s daily routine, but she also didn’t expect to be so comfortable in the male-dominated office after only two months.

“Just today, I walked into the Congressman’s office without shoes on because my feet were hurting,” Drennon said with a laugh. “I told him, ‘I’m sorry, my shoes aren’t on.’ And he said, ‘Not a big deal!’”

The fresh-faced staffer, 23, started working for the Florida Republican in late September. She is not only getting acclimated to her new job, but is also joining the rest of the office in getting accustomed to a new district; Diaz-Balart ran unopposed in the midterm elections to represent the district currently held by his brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R).

One of the perks in shifting districts — even though the two areas cover many of the same counties — was getting to visit the new district in Miami, which felt closer to home for the Dallas native, who said she’s still getting used to D.C.’s winter weather.

“It was nice being able to see what he represents,” Drennon said. “But it was also nice to see palm trees and beautiful weather.”

Drennon got her Capitol Hill kick-start from two brief internships with Texas Republicans. During the August recess, she worked for Rep. Sam Johnson, where she worked with the legislative correspondent to draft constituent letters. In September, she moved over to the office of Rep. Pete Sessions, where she expected to work for several months until she landed a permanent gig on the Hill.

But not long after she started with Sessions, she saw the opening with Diaz-Balart’s office on a listserv and decided to give the application process a shot. Drennon didn’t think much of it at the time, but after three interviews, she secured the job.

“They say it usually takes about six months to got a job here, so I wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast,” Drennon said. “But I got the job in two months, which I think is pretty rare. It was very exciting.”

The new staffer is responsible for making travel arrangements for the Congressman and keeping track of his packed schedule. She’s even allowed to call his cell phone and walk directly into his office, a privilege only afforded to her and the chief of staff.

“The first time I had to go over the schedule with the Congressman, I felt extremely important and realized how important my job was,” Drennon said. “I am an assistant in addition to a scheduler, so I’ve literally done anything and everything for him.”

The University of Alabama alumna had intended to pursue a law degree after graduation and took a few online law courses over the summer. But even though criminal law piqued her interest during her undergraduate studies, she’s learning that her niche might actually be in the administrative side of politics.

“Everyone’s very tight-knit here and I love it,” Drennon said. “I’m the only girl, but it’s fun. I’m starting to really like the administrative aspect, which is why the job interested me so much in the first place.”

Since moving to D.C. in July, Drennon has quickly grown used to the fast-paced environment (“It was crazy to see people sprinting on the Metro and running down these halls”), and even the different forms of transportation (“Although I do miss parking lots”), but one thing she hasn’t quite gotten used to is the choice in footwear for Washington women in the winter.

“It’s really cold here,” she said. “I like to wear flip-flops, so I’m not used to wearing closed-toe shoes.”

Luckily in Diaz-Balart’s office, she might not have to.

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