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Media People

Cornelia Grumman has left the Chicago Tribune to head the First Five Years Fund, a project created to increase the lifelong learning opportunities for at-risk children from birth to age 5. The effort is supported by the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Irving B. Harris Foundation, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Children’s Initiative. Grumman said that the fund has employed Washington groups for polling, communications, and strategy. She is based in Chicago but expects to be in town often.

“Education has always been close to my heart,” Grumman says. Her late mother, Blair Grumman, was director of a child care center and a leader in early-childhood education, so the topic was “part of many dinner-table conversations.”


Grumman worked for the Tribune for 14 years, winning the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2003 and a Studs Terkel award in 2001. But she says she felt a bit like a voyeur “writing about others doing interesting things” and was ready for a change. Her husband, Jim Warren, is a managing editor at the Tribune, and the couple has a son, Blair.

Grumman, 44, earned her master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She was inspired to pursue journalism after meeting reporters who were visiting Duke University, her alma mater. Grumman spent a year in China stringing for The Washington Post before attending graduate school. --Winter Casey

Hill People

Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., has made a number of staff changes: Rachael Seidenschnur is her new press secretary and Betsy Kammer is now her office manager. Cubin also promoted Joy Downey from office manager to legislative aide.


Downey, 26, interned for Reps. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., and John Shadegg, R-Ariz., the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, the Independent Women’s Forum, and the College Republican National Committee. Downey also recently served as an administrative assistant for federal affairs at the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Despite all of that, she says her most influential life experience came when she was a teenager: Downey, her mother, and her two sisters spent 14 months traveling to 48 states and eastern Canada in an RV. Looking back on the adventure really “brings history alive,” said the Pasadena, Calif., native, who was homeschooled during her time on the road.

Seidenschnur, 24, grew up in Little Rock, Ark. She interned for then-Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., and Rep. John Boozman, R- Ark., and at the office of faith-based and community initiatives at the White House and the Heritage Foundation. She also worked as a communications executive assistant at Heritage and as a scheduler for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. Seidenschnur, who was born on Christmas, received a bachelor’s degree with honors from Washington and Lee University. Out of the office, she likes running, sailing, and ballet.

Kammer holds political science and international studies degrees from the University of Wyoming. She has interned with Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and worked for the Laramie City Council. Kammer, 31, was also employed by Fran O’Brien’s Stadium Steak House, where she coordinated Friday night dinners for wounded soldiers and marines being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center, and their family members. Her father served in the Air Force and her younger brother is stationed in Iraq with the Army. --W.C.

Political Stripes

Andres Ramirez, 30, loved growing up in the bright-lights city of Las Vegas, where he still lives. “It’s one of the most dynamic places in the country,” he says. “Being able to go to the grocery store at 2 in the morning … it’s those little things that make the quality of life a little better.” Ramirez recently signed on with NDN (formerly the New Democrat Network), which is headed by party regular Simon Rosenberg. Ramirez will serve as vice president of Hispanic programs for the advocacy group and think tank. He’ll be based in Las Vegas but will frequently commute to Washington.


Ramirez, who was born in Texas and graduated from Georgetown University, served as an aide to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the 1990s. At the behest of Reid, now the Senate majority leader, Ramirez spent the past few years working on the Nevada caucuses for the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign. “It was by far the most challenging and the most rewarding process I’ve been involved in,” he says. In addition to helping establish caucus rules, the bilingual Ramirez worked on launching parallel Hispanic programs and a website in Spanish. “There isn’t even a Spanish word for caucus,” he says. Ramirez, who also helped out on Reid’s 1998 Senate re-election campaign, formerly worked in the Washington office of Bob Miller when he was Nevada governor.

During the 2004 presidential and congressional elections, Ramirez was Nevada state director of Voices for Working Families, a Democratic group that sought to boost voter registration in battleground states. In the 2006 congressional races, he was deputy national field director for Communities United to Strengthen America, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. A big soccer fan, Ramirez played sweeper in a local league and helped the Nevada Democratic Party establish its own soccer team. --Gregg Sangillo


Penelope Wrenn Walz is the new policy communications director for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. She comes to ICANN from General Dynamics, where her job included working on strategic communications for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Earlier in her career, Walz worked for the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems, an international organization of aerospace engineers. She was attracted to ICANN because she likes being involved in international collaboration and “missed the idea of working in the ‘uncharted territory/new frontier’ of space.” She sees the Internet as offering a similar opportunity.

Walz, 37, hails from Arlington, Va. She left in 1988 to attend the University of Wisconsin and moved back in 2001 after living in Wisconsin, California, and Hawaii. She and her husband, Christopher Walz, a communications director for AOL, have a 5-year-old daughter. In her free time, Walz enjoys competitive rowing and is a member of the Potomac Boat Club in Washington.

She holds a law degree from California Western School of Law in San Diego. --W.C.

In the Tanks

Darrell West, an oft-quoted political scientist at Brown University, will head to the Brookings Institution in July to serve as vice president and director of governance studies. Not surprisingly, West’s decision to leave his post as director at Brown’s A. Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions after 26 years at the school was a tough one. “It’s hard to leave Brown because it’s such a terrific place,” he said. “But there were probably three or four jobs in the country for which I would have left Brown, and Brookings is one of them.”

West was raised in Ohio, where his father was an elected township trustee. “I kind of grew up around politics at the local level,” he says. He worked on the student newspaper at Miami University of Ohio and earned his Ph.D. in political science at Indiana University. West has penned 15 books, including Patrick Kennedy: The Rise to Power, a biography of the Democratic congressman from Rhode Island. He has enjoyed following Rhode Island’s often lively state politics. He mentions Vincent (Buddy) Cianci, the former Providence mayor who went to prison in 2002 on a conspiracy conviction, as a particularly interesting story. “He’s one of these really colorful individuals—smart, charismatic, visionary, and ethically challenged,” he says. West knows Cianci, but as he puts it, “Everybody in Rhode Island knows everybody.” In his spare time, West and his wife like to travel, and they have recently spent time in Russia, China, and Portugal.

West, 53, has specialized in American politics and elections as well as mass media and information technology. At Brookings, he expects to work on making federal agencies “more efficient, effective, and responsive.” Good luck! --G.S.

Consulting Game

Martin Shapiro has traveled nearly everywhere: England, Eritrea, France, Kyrgyzstan, and Spain are just a few of the places he has lived for more than a year. Shapiro estimates that he’s worked in 25 countries, including Croatia, Haiti, Indonesia, and Jordan. His work on international development and program management now brings him to the Washington area in a new job as vice president of global operations with CHF International, a nonprofit focused on economic development.

Shapiro speaks fondly of his time in Kyrgyzstan during the mid-1990s, when he encountered some exotic cuisine worthy of the TV show Bizarre Foods. “I ate a lot of boiled goat heads. You eat heads of goat as a sign of respect they give to the guests,” he says, adding that he even partook of “the goat eye as a delicacy.” Shapiro, whose dog has traveled with him to four continents, particularly likes Africa, although many consider it a war-torn hell. “The situation is tough,” he acknowledges, “but when you go walk in the wilderness or outside a city—in the places I’ve been in Eritrea and Ken-ya—there’s a lot of peace.”

This is Shapiro’s second tour with CHF; he was a senior consultant and field expert from 2001 to ’06. In his new job he will try to ensure that the nonprofit’s programs meet the demands of its contributors and the needs of the countries it aids.

Shapiro, 46, is a native of Queens, N.Y., and grew up mainly in Hollywood, Fla. After college, he worked on educational curricula in Spain and then decided to move into international development. He subsequently spent eight years with the Peace Corps, including time as a training manager and country director in Eritrea. “I started that program up, arriving with two suitcases, no volunteers, no relations with the government,” he recalls.

Shapiro loves swimming, canoeing, and eating seafood. “I get my energy from the water,” he says. --G.S.


Budget Crunching … Joan Huffer has left Capitol Hill after 27 years to join the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. She began her Hill career as a typist for then-Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich., after earning an English degree from Wellesley College. Since then, Huffer, who hails from Madison, Wis., has worked for Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and then-Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. She also holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University. In her new job she will be a member of the center’s tax and budget team. Huffer lives in Alexandria, Va., and plays violin in a string quartet. She is also on the board of the Campagna Center and the Center for Alexandria’s Children.

Rockin’ Robin … The Health and Human Services Department has named Robin Robinson as the first director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The authority, created in 2007, is based in HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Its work includes the procurement and advanced development of medical countermeasures for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents.

Still in the Race … Sarah Pompei, the former deputy press secretary for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, is now working as the communications director for Mike Johanns’s U.S. Senate campaign in Nebraska, based in Lincoln. Pompei also worked in Montana as press secretary for the 2006 Senate re-election campaign of Conrad Burns, who was narrowly defeated, and has served as a spokeswoman for the California Republican Party.

Health Counsel … Michelle Easton is leaving Capitol Hill to join Tarplin, Downs & Young as a partner. Easton served as chief health counsel to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. “We have long admired Michelle as one of the leading Democratic health policy experts,” Linda Tarplin, one of the firm’s founding partners, said in a statement. Easton has worked on health care reform, Medicare, and Medicaid at the Finance Committee since early 2006. She’s also a former staff director for the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and was a legislative counsel to then-Sen. John Breaux, D-La.

Moving On … Alisha Prather, communications director for the House Committee on Science and Technology, is leaving to become the director of communications for the new Galveston National Laboratory in Galveston, Texas. Prather has been with the committee for the past three and a half years. She previously spent eight years as a spokeswoman for then-Rep. Chris John, D-La. In addition, she was communications coordinator for the House Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats. Prather holds a bachelor’s from Baylor University and a master’s from the University of Louisiana (Lafayette).

New House … Former Housing and Urban Development official Orlando Cabrera has taken a job as chief executive officer of the National Community Renaissance, an organization that operates 9,500 affordable-housing apartments in six states. From late 2005 through January of this year, Cabrera served as assistant secretary for public and Indian housing at HUD. Cabrera (not to be confused with the Chicago White Sox shortstop of the same name) was formerly executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. --W.C. and G.S.

This article appears in the April 19, 2008 edition of National Journal Magazine Contents.

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