Robert Getzoff, a longtime Capitol Hill staffer with deep community ties, died July 15, and the tributes to him offer an insider’s view of how closely people work together on the Hill, as well as how important humor can be in forging workplace bonds.
“Mr. Speaker, it’s not often I find myself in the position of singing the praises of a Flyers fan, and while I’m still happy his team finished second in 2010, there’s no question he’s first in the hearts of his friends and family,” Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., said in a statement he entered into the Congressional Record on July 19.
Quigley is a veteran Chicago politician and die-hard Chicago Blackhawks fan. For him to come even close to saying something nice about the Philadelphia Flyers showed his comfort level with Getzoff, who was well-known for his sense of humor and loyalty to his hometown of Philadelphia.
Getzoff started his Capitol Hill career in the office of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and later worked as legislative counsel focusing on financial services for Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
He left Capitol Hill in 2007 to work in federal government affairs for Citigroup and later moved on to Bank of New York Mellon in 2010. Getzoff held a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University, a law degree from Temple University and an MBA from Georgetown University.
When Quigley and Timothy H. Bishop, D-N.Y., paid tribute to Getzoff’s long career in their July 19 statement submitted for the Congressional Record, the warmth of their relationship came through with their alternate jabs (such as the Flyers reference) and praise for their departed friend and colleague. The statement shows how tightly staffs and members work together, and how strong those bonds can be, even after people move on to other careers.
“Rob was beloved by many who had the privilege to work with him and share his passion and dedication to work and friends. A legislative staff in a congressional office is a small unit, and Rob was part of a family. That small group of people crammed into a not-so-large shared space working long hours on difficult issues got to know each other about as well as you can with people assembled by someone else. In stressful moments full of ‘pushback’ and ‘red flags,’ he could be counted on to pitch in to help, or simply remind his fellow staffers ‘you love this song.’ … He maintained his relationship with the 5th District even after his former boss moved on to the White House, serving as a friend and mentor to my staff,” the statement continues.
Pete Spiro, a former legislative director in Emanuel’s office, recalled that Getzoff was respected and well-liked and had a great sense of humor. “People took an instant liking to Rob. He made friends with everyone and always made the time to maintain those friendships. During the early years in Rahm’s office in the House, Rob brought the most experience to the back office and contributed to everything we did. He could add levity to even the most challenging situations,” Spiro said.
Jonathan Levy, a former Hill staffer who also worked closely with Getzoff in Emanuel’s office, remembered him as an outstanding colleague and a tremendous friend. “Rob’s sense of humor was legendary on the Hill, and there wasn’t a day that went by where he didn’t make one of us laugh. I sat only a few feet away from him in Rahm’s office, and learned from him on a wide array of topics — from drafting my first bill to which rock bands I needed to hear. Anyone who knew Rob already misses him terribly, and we were all lucky to have had him in our lives.”
And for staffers who think that the long hours and working conditions are something that others might not notice, take heed, again, from Quigley. “A few years ago the derisive term ‘little punk staffer’ became a badge of honor among the many who’ve toiled in tiny cramped spaces like 1319 Longworth. Rob was among the best little punk staffers this institution has ever seen.”