When MacMillan, 34, was an undergrad at the University of San Diego, it seemed like all of her friends were going to study abroad in Europe. She, however, went to Washington. On her second day at an internship at the Clinton White House, MacMillan helped staff a dinner with Chinese officials. The glitz, the glamour, the powerful people—she had the bug. MacMillan graduated with a degree in political science, and knew that she would either work in politics at the state level in Sacramento, just 20 minutes from where she grew up, or make the trek across the country to work in the city she interned in. The latter had more pull. She worked for the late Rep. Bob Matsui, D-Calif., before joining the congressional campaign of then-Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif. MacMillan felt the best job she could have working for the Cardoza campaign would be as a committee staffer, and she threw herself into learning all about agriculture. Her grandfather was a small-scale corn and bean farmer in Iowa, but MacMillan had little experience in agriculture issues herself. But after eight years working for Cardoza, a member of the House Agriculture Committee—including helping with the 2008 farm bill—that certainly changed. Today, MacMillan is one of two deputy chiefs of staff at the Agriculture Department, and is a point person for policy issues. She says her job resembles being a legislative assistant on the Hill, and having spent so much time there, she would know.
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