After seven years in the collegial halls of the Senate and more than a year of faster-moving action in the House, Laena Fallon is ready for a change of pace.
So the 29-year-old New Hampshire native has left the pressure-cooker post of communications director for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to join the Financial Services Forum as vice president for communications, starting on Aug. 6.
The change represents a fresh start in a career that began more than a decade ago when Fallon was in high school and volunteered for the 2000 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Fallon points to her New Hampshire background as the reason for her early interest in politics. The Granite State is very politically engaged, she says, plus her grandmother and parents were political volunteers, so it is “almost unavoidable” to be involved in politics in the state that hosts the first presidential primary.
Her love for politics turned into a job after she volunteered for the 2004 reelection campaign of then-Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., during her senior year at Saint Anselm College. She joined Gregg’s staff a week after graduation and stayed with the senator until he left office in 2011.
“I wasn’t sure that I wanted to end up in Washington, but it seemed like a fantastic experience that I had to take,” Fallon says. “I never anticipated being in D.C. as long as I have been, but I’ve been very fortunate.”
During her time in Gregg’s office, Fallon worked her way up from staff assistant to communications director. But she always made the time to work on campaigns. She would take a leave of absence in the fall to work on campaigns such as Washington state Sen. Dino Rossi’s 2010 run for the U.S. Senate.
“You learn a lot on campaigns,” she says. “You can be working next to someone who has done campaigns for years and can teach you a lot.”
Fallon switched chambers in January 2011 to become press secretary, and eventually communications director, for Cantor. She says the House moves at lightning speed compared with the deliberative, old-school style of the Senate. “Leader Cantor is one of the most talented guys out there,” she says. “He’s a people person and that makes him understand the members at a really unique level.”
It was during her time with Gregg, who served on the Senate Budget Committee, that Fallon discovered her interest in financial policy. She says she learned a lot about banking when the committee negotiated financial regulatory reform leading up to passage of the Dodd-Frank law.
“It was complex and constantly moving, and the markets would shift,” she says. “It’s always been a policy interest to me.” This interest influenced her decision to leave the Hill last Friday to move to the Financial Services Forum. The nonpartisan organization is made up of CEOs from 20 of the largest U.S. financial-services institutions.
But Fallon already knows she’ll miss the people she worked with day to day in the Capitol. “Throughout the entire Capitol Hill community is this great group of people who genuinely care about each other,” she says, “and it’s neat that you can be friends in both chambers and both sides of the aisle.”
This article appears in the July 24, 2012, edition of NJ Daily.