October 15, 2007 brett

Maura Policelli, chief of staff for U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ 8th), has been working on Capitol Hill for twelve years, and seems to have lost none of her passion for public service. “A lot of people are cynical about our government,” says Maura, “but I’m still in awe of our democracy.” Maura continually appreciates the opportunity to take part in the inner workings of the United States government. Although the pay is hardly equivalent to the private sector, Maura seems perfectly content with where she is. “We’re debating really important issues,” she says, “and making very consequential decisions here.”

Maura hopes the salaries of public servants do not discourage young people from entering the Washington D.C. job force; it is one of the sacrifices made to take part in governing a country as diverse as the United States. “Not many people get to see the inside of our government,” Maura says. “From road maintenance, to the quality of our air, to the quality of our schools, people come here to fight for their passionate views. We care very much about the policies of our country.” Maura says that hard workers, good writers and team players all have the opportunity to advance rather quickly through the Washington ranks.

To see what Rep. Giffords and her staff are doing in Washington, visit: http://giffords.house.gov/

INTERVIEW

My name is Maura Policelli.  I am the chief of staff to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who represents Southern Arizona.

How long have you been working on the Hill in DC?

I’ve been in DC for almost twelve years.  Most of that time I’ve been working on Capital Hill.

Do you like it?

Yeah.  I have enjoyed it.  And even in the few years I wasn’t on the hill I was working in public policy.  Although a lot of people are cynical about our government, I still am in awe of our democracy.  That’s part of why I’ve worked on Capital Hill for so long.  I think that while it’s not perfect, our system of government is an incredible form of democracy.  The strong differences of opinions and the partisanship, while it can be ugly at times, for sure, it’s a substitute for violence.  Maybe that’s the most stark way to look at it. 

We’re debating really important issues and making really big decisions for the country here on Capital Hill.  The members are, and we as staff are helping them.  Ultimately, I think good results emerge from that.  There are a lot of very thoughtful people here contributing to the discussions. 

Just walking around DC today, you have a bunch of fresh faces.  You have guys like Jeff that are interning and making financial sacrifices.  Why are people so driven to be involved in politics and be a part of the whole scene?

I think a lot of people come to DC right after college.  Some people have internships while in college to get some exposure.  But I’ve seen a lot of people come right from college and just hit the ground trying to find a job.  You have to do it while you’re here, not from a far.  Just taking the chance to get on Capital Hill.  Even if it’s a little while.  Maybe just a year or two years.   I love it so I’ve been here twelve years. 

It’s because not many people get to see the inside of our government and how it really works.  And to understand that and understand how it affects so many aspects of our lives.  Our roads, the quality of our air, the schools our kids go to.  So many of the decisions that are made here affect our lives, so people come here to get a better sense of that to understand it. 

But also, I think a lot of us are here because we have passionate views about a lot of these issues.  We care very much about the policies of our country and the priorities they represent.  They’re driven by the values that we have and want to bring to the discussions within our government.

So what does it take to succeed and have a salary?

A lot of young staff don’t get paid well.  They have to work a second job.  It’s tough.  We have a lot of receptions on the Hill that our staff go to eat because it’s free food.  It’s tough. 

But people move up pretty quickly on Capital Hill if they write well and are willing to put in some extra hours because it can really be a lot of work around here.  Be a team player.  It moves quickly in terms of someone being able to from a junior position and stay on the Hill long enough to get paid more and have more responsibility. 

I don’t know if any of this could be used for the book, but certainly for the website.  A career in politics would be appealing for our site, and Maura offers that.  Not book material though.