COS Spotlight: Rachel Magnuson

At PoliticsPA, we love staffers as much as elected officials. That’s why we’re bringing you the fourth installment in our newest feature, Chief of Staff Spotlight. Each week, we’ll introduce you to one of the people who make the PA delegation possible.

We’ve chosen at random, and this week we present Rachel Magnuson, Chief of Staff for Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Montgomgery/Phila).

Background

What’s your name?

Rachel Magnuson (maiden name Leed)

Who is your boss?

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz

What is your birthday?

May 5

Where did you grow up?

Conestoga, PA

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania / communications

Are you married? Dating? Single?

Married

Do you have any kids? If so, how old and what are their names?

Abby, four; Olivia, one

Professional

What was your first political job?

Communications on a congressional race in Kansas. The candidate lost badly, but I learned I loved on the ground political work.

What was your biggest break in politics?

Figuring out that I wanted to work in politics.  See 1.

How long have you worked with your boss?

Six plus years

What was your position when you first started in the office?

Communications director on Schwartz’s first race for Congress

What’s the worst job outside of politics you have ever had?

Worked at a swanky gym. I liked the job, but it was a second job I took post graduation for the perk of a free gym membership, which with a 45 minute commute to the gym after a full day of work at my main job meant I never used the free gym membership and just resented driving so far for a two hour shift.

Personal

What has been your proudest single accomplishment/achievement since working on Capitol Hill?

Building lasting relationships with people throughout Pennsylvania and D.C.; seeing ideas of constituents become introduced as laws; and knowing that because of the work done by my Member and this office a difference has been made in the lives of people throughout PA-13, Pennsylvania and America.

What is your favorite PA sports team?

Penn State football

Where and what do you eat lunch on most days?

At my desk, and a tossup of something from home or the cafeteria. Yes, boring….

Favorite “political” movie?

I am a sucker for cheesy romantic comedies, so the American President.

Blackberry or I-Phone?

Blackberry and a Droid Incredible

What political figure do you most admire (excluding your boss), and a sentence or two why?

I am going to answer this slightly differently, below is a list of people (some of whom I disagree with vehemently policy-wise) who have made a positive impression on me at one point through either a  policy position they took or through the sheer grit of their personality:  Sec. State Hillary Clinton; Gov. Ann Richards; Rep. Jeff Flake; Senator Patrick Moynihan; Rep. Jeanette Rankin; Mayor Rahm Emmanuel; President Franklin Roosevelt; Senator Lisa Murkowski; President Bill Clinton; First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

What makes a Chief of Staff “good” and why? advice would you give to the aspiring Chiefs of Staff out there?

Small things matter. People have long memories. There’s a difference between gratuitous name dropping and genuine relationship building to help network for career advice, and the difference matters. Don’t ever get too big for your britches that you can’t fax, go to the UPS dropbox, or pick up lunch for someone. Yes, interns should answer the phone, but so should you so get a first hand sense of what constituents and others are concerned about. Take time out to have informational interviews with people looking for Capitol Hill work. Once in awhile leave your BlackBerry at work over the weekend (caveat, I’ve not yet done this). Little is done on Capitol Hill without teamwork, whether it is a bill, a press conference, or a call to action: knowing other staffers matters. Information is currency, so read like mad: PA newspapers and blogs; national papers; political papers – read it all and learn the difference between idle political gossip and news of value, and learn when the idle political gossip is the news of value. Disregard everything you learned in college or graduate school about a 30 page thesis, and learn how to write a bulleted just the facts memo. Learn how to deliver bad news and advice your boss doesn’t want to hear. Let other staff be the ones to give good news to the boss, not yourself. Know that it matters to have friends and allies in both parties. And, when you are tired, hungry and cranky after having left work at 10 p.m. look back at the dome lit up and remember why you do what you do.

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