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Hill Climbers: Feeling At Home in the Heart of Washington

Tiffany McGuffee won’t let D.C. change her true identity: The new communications director for Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., is a proud Volunteer State native and alumna of the University of Tennessee.

She feels her small-town roots made her who she is today. McGuffee grew up in Dayton — the site of the infamous 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” in which a high school teacher was tried and convicted of teaching evolution, then a violation of state law.

“I think it’s really important in this town to remember where you came from and what you’re about,” she said. “I’m happy I had that experience of growing up in a small town in my formative years.”

But she headed off to the (relatively) big city of Knoxville for college. And in her junior year, she fell in love with Washington on a group trip with fellow communications majors and realized she wanted to start her career on the Hill.

She lined up an unpaid internship in the office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., just before the start of her last semester in fall 2008. But she worked there only two weeks before landing a staff assistant position with Rep. David Davis, the Tennessee Republican who preceded Roe.

When Roe replaced Davis in January 2009, McGuffee stayed on as a staff assistant and worked her way up the ladder as a legislative assistant, press assistant and legislative aide. She now advises Roe on his legislative portfolio, drafts columns and press releases, manages his social media and interviews prospective staff members. Working for one of her home-state representatives has helped McGuffee feel comfortable on the Hill.

“It would be harder to be away from home if I didn’t work for someone from my home state,” she said. “Roe is very grounded, has a great family and has taken us in as part of his family.”

She found her first connection with D.C. when she was just 13 years old. In eighth grade, she laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

McGuffee worked part time to pay her way through college and waited tables to survive her first few months in Washington.

“Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and work hard,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get right where you want to be at the beginning.”

McGuffee doesn’t spend all her time on the Hill, though. Every Saturday, she spends all day in class at American University, working toward a master’s degree in public communications. She also serves on the Communications Committee of the Junior League of Washington and on the Graduate Student Council at AU.

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