Hill Climbers: Career Detours Don’t Deter Staffer

Posted October 21, 2011 at 3:31pm

Capitol Hill can be a rough-and-tumble place, but Laura Sisemore has already skated through a shark tank. 

The California native worked for the San Jose Sharks hockey team before joining the office of Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) as press secretary.

Sisemore did not always plan on going into communications. 

“At the end of my college career, I absolutely thought I was going to go to law school,” she said. 

When her law school applications could not be completed because of an adviser who went on sabbatical before submitting her letters of recommendation, Sisemore decided to look for work instead. 

After graduating from Stanford University, she worked at the university’s law school reunion program as a fundraiser. This experience allowed her to transition to working for the Sharks’ communications team. 

“At the time, I was absolutely devastated,” she said about not attending law school, “but now, looking back … it all ended up working out exactly as it should.”

She spent two years working for Stanford Law School before moving to her job in community outreach for the Sharks, a position that she said she found on Craigslist. 

“I didn’t even know hockey, to be honest,” she said. “What I knew was fundraising.”

Sisemore said her time with the Sharks prepared her for working on the Hill. “Both are very fast-paced, up-and-down environments where success is really focused on ‘winning,’” she said.

She compared Quigley’s responsibility to his constituents to the Sharks’ responsibility to their fans. 

“They feel, as they should, an ownership of the product,” she said. “They feel they have a stake in it, and they’re very vocal when they agree or disagree with how things are going.”

When she wasn’t hanging out with professional hockey players, Sisemore was competing in or advising for beauty pageants. 

“There are a lot of people who give pageants a really bad rap for things that they perceive it to be,” she said, arguing that the Miss America program is based more on merit. 

“For me, it was a really great opportunity to champion a cause,” she said, explaining that she got involved with her YWCA’s rape crisis center through pageants.

Participating in pageants also supplied her with skills that she uses every day in Quigley’s office. 

“It gave me a really good chance to hone my interview and public speaking skills,” she said, “which, for a communications person, is pretty darn important.”

Despite the law school and hockey detours, Sisemore said she always imagined herself one day working in politics. 

“I was the little kid growing up who saw a picture of the White House and said, ‘I’m going to be there someday,’” she said. 

And she found her experience in the hockey world has been helpful while working for Quigley, co-chairman of the Congressional Hockey Caucus.

“It’s nice to be able to combine my love for hockey with politics in an office with probably the most hockey-focused Member of Congress,” Sisemore said. “I think it would have been better if I had been a Blackhawks fan, but he’s working on it.”

While she loves working in communications on the Hill, Sisemore hasn’t ruled out returning to hockey. “If politics doesn’t work out, I might have to get an [Alexander] Ovechkin jersey,” she joked, referring to the Washington Capitals hockey star.

Send news of hires and promotions on Capitol Hill to climbers@rollcall.com.