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Hill Climbers: From Sheriff’s to Lawmaker’s Office

For the past six years, Michael Hartigan worked as a public information officer at the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office in Medford, Mass. 

But after traveling the world, the new communications director for Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) decided he wanted to work in a place where he could communicate issues that had a national and global effect, a desire that led him to Capitol Hill.

He points to an experience in an Austrian beer hall, where he overheard two European factory workers discuss American politics, as the moment he knew he wanted to work in politics. 

“I didn’t start [the conversation], and maybe it was the beer speaking, but I sat there and thought, ‘This is something that I’d like to be a part of, something much more global than me, something that mattered to people worldwide.'” 

When his wife got a job at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., Hartigan knew it was his chance to get a communications job in the Washington political scene, and the communications director position in Tsongas’ office was a perfect fit. 

“Middlesex County is currently in district 5 [Tsongas’ district], and I know the media there. I’ve worked with them for a long time,” Hartigan said. 

He added that he’s excited about being able to be proactive in his communication with reporters, communicating to them the initiatives Tsongas is working on, rather than just fielding calls and reacting, which accounted for a majority of his tasks as a public information officer.

“As a public information officer in the law enforcement world, you don’t get a lot of opportunity to be proactive,” Hartigan said. “You are reacting constantly, and you don’t have control of when people commit crimes. . But I’m excited for the opportunity to come here and be more proactive and really educate and inform people as to how the office can be of service to them and how government is affecting them.”

Although Hartigan enjoys his career in public relations, he said he originally set out to be a reporter. While in journalism graduate school at Boston University, Hartigan interned with the Cape Cod Times as well as with USA Today, where he got a taste of the Washington media scene. 

But ultimately it was an internship with the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office that led to a job and his career in public relations. 

Because of his experience, Hartigan advises those looking to get a job on Capitol Hill to widen their vision and consider all opportunities, even if they don’t immediately sound appealing. 

“Explore everything, because you never know when there may be a connecting skill set,” Hartigan said. “The basis of my job is journalism and communication, and just being able to sit here and have a conversation with a reporter or official or head of an agency has benefited me greatly.” 

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