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Hill Climbers: Shira ‘The Hammer’ Lahav Keeps Her Member’s Office Running Smoothly

Believe it or not, scheduling a day in the life of a House freshman is more demanding than arranging activities for 500 summer campers and camp counselors.

That’s according to Shira “The Hammer” Lahav, who earned her nickname in the office of Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., who lost her seat in 2012.

“You need to say ‘no’ to someone? Bring them to Shira and she’ll put them in their place,” Lahav said, describing her former co-workers’ view of her. “You can want it that way, but here’s how it’s going to happen.”

The nickname comes with context. It’s been used by such enforcers as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the Velvet Hammer.

Lahav’s intensity has continued in her new digs, where she keep the trains running on time for the office of Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who represents a district along the state’s eastern coast, including Daytona Beach.

“Officially my title is [operations director], which basically is a fancy way of saying all of the administrative, behind-the-scenes end of helping to run a congressional office,” Lahav told CQ Roll Call.

Before coming to Capitol Hill, Lahav was program director at a nonprofit summer camp in her home state of New Jersey. While scheduling for 500 campers and camp counselors to transition smoothly between swimming, lunch, and arts and crafts is a massive task, the stakes are higher in Congress.

“I always say to anyone I work with: My job is to manage the congressman’s expectations, and their job is to manage my expectations,” she said. “If he’s not where he has to be, it’s my fault. And I need to fix it.”

In addition to arranging DeSantis’s schedule both in his district and on the Hill, Lahav helps manage the office budget and finances in coordination with the chief of staff, she said.

The work doesn’t stop there.

“With this thing, the BlackBerry, it’s 24/7,” she said, placing a hand on her work phone. “I never shut off my BlackBerry. I sleep with it. My friends make fun of me, but in this job, you know.”

What makes it all work for Lahav is her drive and motivation, mixed with affection for how varied the work is in an office that she described as a giant puzzle with constantly moving pieces.

“I just love what I do,” she said. “I’ll take the long way through the Capitol just to walk through the Rotunda and say, ‘I can’t believe that I’m here.’”

Lahav described her operations director’s gig as different every day. “On Friday, I was shaking hands with the majority leader … and today I’m coordinating meetings in district and tomorrow, who knows what I’ll be doing,” she said. “Every day is different, every day is a challenge.”

A combination of luck and perseverance have kept her afloat as she soaks up the opportunity to work for a country that, she said, needs fixing.

“You never say ‘no’ on the Hill because you never know what that next opportunity is going to lead to,” Lahav said. “It’s all about having that positive attitude, saying ‘yes’ to every job given to you. That’s kind of helped me rise up to where I am now.”

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