When you start work during a recess week, it’s supposed to be easy. Get your email set up. Introduce yourself to people. Settle in to your new desk.
That’s what Anne Marie Malecha expected.
Then the tornadoes hit.
It was her third day as the communications director for Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) when the office was thrown into full-crisis mode as it dealt with one of the deadliest tornado disasters in years.
“I was going to send all these emails, make sure people know who I am, reach out and say, ‘This is my plan going forward,’ and then” — Malecha snapped her fingers — “All of the sudden, it was, ‘Here’s what you do.’”
The 24-year-old spent the next few days working with Aderholt’s district office, contacting Alabama media outlets and making sure constituents were registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“It’s a hell of a way to start,” she said.
Lucky for Malecha, she isn’t new to working in the political field.
After growing up in Madison, Wis. — which was a political education in itself, with Tommy Thompson (R) at the helm as governor — Malecha attended the University of Minnesota, where she studied political science, strategic communications and international business.
Her first brush with Washington, D.C., life was when she interned with the National Association of Broadcasters in 2008. When her internship ended, she began working for then-Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), who represented the area her parents had moved to.
Malecha moved to D.C. shortly afterward to work for Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) as a staff assistant specializing in new media, which was the “beginning of Poe in the virtual world,” she likes to say. She quickly moved up to legislative clerk in new media.
While she was in that role, she toyed with the idea of switching over to legislative work as opposed to communications work.
“Do I want to write laws that are never going to get enacted?” she said. “I like immediate results. You get more of that in the press world … though sometimes it’s not a good thing.”
Malecha then returned to Minnesota politics, working as press secretary for Rep. Erik Paulsen (R), who represents her parents’ district.
She landed the job in Aderholt’s office through people she knew in Hill circles. For Malecha, it was a way to see how the Hill worked from the perspective of a Congressional office under a Representative who has been in office for more than a few years — especially when that Member is on the House Appropriations Committee and is chairman of its Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
“It’s a different kind of animal, and it’s a new challenge for me,” she said.
Don’t paint her as the typical staffer, though.
“I think because I’m not in the [legislative] world and I’m not pushing things through, I didn’t have these idealistic goals in coming here that I was going to change the world,” she said. “If I can help a couple people along the way, great.”
Malecha never thought she would end up working on the Hill, but one story she shares seems to indicate otherwise. As a child, she and her parents visited D.C. to see then-Rep. Scott Klug (R-Wis.), an old friend of her mother’s. A photo was taken of Malecha sitting at Klug’s desk in the Rayburn House Office Building.
That photo now sits on Malecha’s own desk in Rayburn.
“I look at that picture and think, ‘I never in a million years thought I’d end up here,’” she said. “When you make the drive in from [Reagan National Airport] and you start to see the monuments and the Capitol … I pinch myself and think, ‘Wow, I’m here. I’m doing this. This is great.’”
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