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Michael Higdon Takes Kentucky Ties to Cornerstone | Hill Climbers

After 14 years in various staff roles, most recently as the chief of staff to for House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., Michael R. Higdon will now use his Kentucky ties as a vice president at Cornerstone Government Affairs.

“Cornerstone and I are motivated to expand their footprint in the Bluegrass, so I’ll be leading that initiative,” Higdon said, adding that he awaits the opportunity to build value for Kentucky enterprises.

As part of the firm’s appropriations and budget team, Higdon, who started on Monday, will focus on energy, defense, homeland security and transportation issues. His more than a decade of experience in Bluegrass State matters will be utilized to develop future business.

“Those who know Michael recognize his thoughtful analysis and honest brokering,” Cornerstone Managing Partner and President Geoff Gonella said in a statement announcing Higdon’s hire. “His close relationship with key policymakers, familiarity with D.C.’s political landscape, and a strong pulse on Kentucky issues gives us a great advantage expanding our reach both inside and outside the beltway.”

The California native first arrived on the East Coast in 1995. He studied government and law at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.

Wasting no time, he moved to Washington, D.C., the day after graduating to work for Rep. Ronald C. Packard, R-Calif.

After Packard retired, Higdon signed on with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., as a legislative assistant and systems administrator in early 2001. He left Bartlett’s office the following year for the chance to work on appropriations matters for Rogers.

“The draw was being in a place that we were immediately effecting change. Appropriators are, by nature, doers. Effecting policy on an annual basis and influencing budget decisions was extremely motivating to me,” Higdon said.

Rogers has served on the Appropriations Committee since 1986, advancing to the chairman’s position when Republicans regained the House majority after the 2010 elections.

Among his more high-profile assignments, Higdon supported Rogers as a lead appropriations aide and staff designee to the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina.

The following year, Rogers became chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, where he oversaw the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. Higdon has also served Rogers as lead staffer on a host of other spending subcommittees.

Higdon took over as Rogers’ personal chief of staff in January 2011, after assisting the Kentucky Republican with his successful chairmanship bid, spending the next nearly three years as Rogers’ primary adviser on policy, press and political matters.

“For over a decade, Michael has served in my inner circle as a trusted friend, erudite leader, and thoughtful advisor on a wide spectrum of political and policy issues before the Congress,” Rogers said in a statement. “He shares a deep understanding and heart-felt commitment to Kentucky, the Appropriations Committee, and public service and I know he will serve others with excellent care.”

David Thomas, a former chief of staff for Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and executive director of the Republican Main Street Partnership, will be Rogers’ new top aide.

Geographically, Higdon will not be leaving Capitol Hill: Cornerstone is located one block east of the Library of Congress. The firm launched a national expansion effort in 2008, opening six additional offices.

The appropriations team recently added Erik Fatemi, the former staff director for Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Nelson Peacock, former assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the Homeland Security Department.

In addition to working with familiar faces, Michael and his wife Jamie, welcomed a new one to the family on Oct. 28, Elliette Grace. Higdon’s wife, an Orlando, Fla., native, is an alumna of Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky.

Michael and Jamie, who have been together for four years, met through a church event and continued to connect through the similarities in their lines of work.

“If anything, Kentucky brought us together. We found common ground in the Commonwealth,” Higdon said. “We raise our kids to root for the [University of Kentucky] Cats.”

Judging from Facebook photos of the newborn — already decked out in UK gear — the Higdons plan on keeping their Kentucky ties regardless of vocation and location.

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