The National Association of Chain Drug Stores has named Tom O’Donnell, chief of staff for outgoing Rep. Steven Rothman, D-N.J., as its vice president of federal-government affairs, effective July 9. O’Donnell arrives during what he describes as a “historic moment” for the association. As the health care industry comes to terms with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act, he insists that the association will be a big player in the months ahead. “One of the criticisms of the [law] has been cost control…. Well, this organization is in a position to bring costs down for average Americans.”
O’Donnell was raised in Boonville, N.Y., in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. After graduating from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, he came to Washington as an intern and later a legislative assistant for then-Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo. The 48-year-old has been a fixture in the House ever since, serving as an aide to then-Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill.; a professional staff member on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee; and chief of staff to Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., and then-Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill. His current employer, Rothman, was soundly defeated in a June 5 Democratic primary by his colleague in the New Jersey delegation, Rep. Bill Pascrell.
Two weeks ago, O’Donnell received a letter from the Congressional Federal Credit Union congratulating him on 25 years of service. It is a dubious distinction, he says. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years? Sometimes I have to pinch myself.”
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Chris Walters, the new senior director of government relations at the Small Business Investor Alliance, is a third-generation entrepreneur. His grandfather, father, and mother have all owned small businesses — an airplane cleaning service, a plumbing company, and a travel agency, respectively.
Hence, “entrepreneurialism is in my blood,” Walters says, by way of explaining why he has spent most of his career championing the interests of small business. At the investor alliance, he will represent private-equity firms investing in small businesses. The association’s members have a stake in the ongoing tax-reform debate, and Walters says he intends to be “on the offense” to ensure that “incentives in the tax code are aligned with the realities of small business.” This may be his only chance for decades to come; the last major overhaul of the tax code was in 1986.
Walters says that it was not until his senior year at Georgetown University that he realized he wanted to work in the public-policy arena. The year was 2000, and Vice President Al Gore and then-Gov. George W. Bush were locked in a tight presidential race. Walters analyzed the twists and turns of the unfolding saga and incorporated his findings into his course work. “That race was what really hooked me,” he says.
After graduating, he interned with then-Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and was promptly promoted to legislative assistant. The office’s bÃªte noir, Walters jokes, was Santorum’s Senate counterpart, Arlen Specter. “One of the more memorable moments during that time was when [our softball team] faced off against Team Specter,” he says. “I’m pretty sure we won, but I can’t tell you for certain.” Asked if he was surprised by Santorum’s formidable performance in the recent Republican presidential primaries, Walters says, “The opportunity was there for him, and he took advantage of it. He campaigned in every one of Iowa’s  counties.”
In 2004, Walters enlisted in the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and was deployed to central Pennsylvania. The Keystone State went blue that year, but Walters describes it as a Pyrrhic victory for the Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who “wouldn’t have won without diverting resources from other battleground states.”
After the election, Walters returned to Washington, accepting a position in the Treasury Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, he helped to draft the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act, which aided storm victims. Walters says that Democrats recycled certain components of the bill, such as bonus depreciation, in the 2009 economic-stimulus package.
The 34-year-old was most recently senior manager for legislative affairs for the National Federation of Independent Business, which has been chipping away at the 2010 Affordable Care Act since its inception. Last year, the group was instrumental in pushing for a law that repealed the legislation’s unpopular 1099 tax-reporting provision.
Mary Frances Kertz
Mary Frances Kertz provides a global perspective as the new assistant vice president in federal-government relations at the MassMutual Financial Group. Kertz returned to the United States in November after two years in China. At the financial group, she will lobby on financial-services issues while monitoring tax reform. MassMutual has offices around the globe, which is perfect for the veteran world traveler.
Kertz, 30, credits her family’s road trips as the source of her travel bug. In fact, on one of her parents’ solo trips to Ireland, they stumbled upon a castle converted into a boarding school. Kertz spent one of her high school years boarding in that school, run by nuns for international students. “It was really a great experience to learn about other people’s culture,” the St. Louis native says. “And at the age of 15, to have that perspective helped carve a lot of my outlook throughout my life.”
The perspective stuck. She has traveled to more than 20 countries and gained experience in the international sustainable-development field in the process. Her promotion path at the Treasury Department — from special assistant, to the deputy assistant secretary for legislative affairs, to special adviser for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue — provided the background she wanted. “I truly woke up every morning excited to go to work,” she says. “We worked really hard, but it was a really exciting and rewarding place to work.”
She dealt with U.S.-China relations and moved toward her long-term goal of working in China. She consulted friends and colleagues and formulated a plan. In 2010, she moved to China and enrolled in a Mandarin language-immersion program for four months, while job hunting. “If I didn’t want it as badly as I did, it would have been very difficult to achieve,” she says. “I just remained very diligent.”
And the hard work paid off. Kertz landed a position as a senior operations officer at the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program. She says that the experience taught her a lot, not only about Chinese and U.S. business relations but also about people. “I was reminded that, fundamentally, people are very similar no matter where you are,” she says. “We all want kind of the same things. We want the opportunity to work hard and provide the best for our families.”
After returning stateside in November, Kertz spent seven months as a consultant at the Lampkin Group, a public-affairs firm, before joining MassMutual on June 11.
Edwin Elfmann, a specialist in agriculture policy, is the new senior legislative representative for the American Bankers Association. He was most recently a legislative assistant for Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
Elfmann, 26, was raised on a 1,000-acre farm seven miles outside of Maple Lake, Minn. Compared with operating a farm, he says, formulating policy is a leisurely occupation. “Out there, 12-hour days are part of the business; I joke that anything I do in D.C. is easier than baling hay.” As a teenager, Elfmann milked cows at the crack of dawn and “hauled grain” to the Twin Cities, an hour’s drive.
As an undergraduate at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., he considered majoring in chemistry but later decided on political science, a discipline more closely tied to current events. “I came to the conclusion that, if I opened a newspaper, I was going to read an article about politics before I read an article about chemistry.”
Elfmann expected to become a high school social-studies teacher but changed his career path after an internship with then-Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. Three weeks after graduating from Hamline, the young man headed to Washington, eventually taking a job with the National Corn Growers Association.
One year later, Elfmann found himself at the Transportation Department, where he functioned as a “utility man,” he says. “Anything they could throw at me, I picked up.” After receiving a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University, he joined King’s office as a legislative assistant responsible for the lawmaker’s agriculture portfolio.
Elfmann’s “stress reliever” is rugby. As a hooker for the Washington Rugby Football Club, he competes in the spring, summer, and fall, traveling as far north as Pittsburgh and as far south as Raleigh, N.C. The winter is reserved for strength and aerobic training.
Josh Saltzman, until recently chief of staff for Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, has joined Airlines for America as vice president for global government affairs. He will report to CEO Nicholas Calio, a former White House assistant for legislative affairs in both the George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush administrations.
Originally from Bucks County, Pa., outside Philadelphia, Saltzman attended the College of William and Mary, where he was active in the College Republicans. After graduating in 1999, he spent a year working for then-Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., before pursuing a master’s of philosophy in international peace studies at Trinity College, Dublin.
Returning to Washington, Saltzman started as a legislative assistant for Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., but ultimately landed a job with Sessions, vice chairman of the Rules Committee. As the enforcer of parliamentary protocol, the panel functions as a clearinghouse for legislation, Saltzman says, which gave him “the opportunity to get involved in just about every legislative area.” When Sessions was elected chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2008, Saltzman was promoted to chief of staff. (His predecessor, Guy Harrison, had vacated that position to become the NRCC’s executive director.)
Now 34, Saltzman is a youngster compared with Washington’s elder statesmen. Asked if Congress is more polarized today than when he started, he says, “I don’t think it’s more or less polarized; I think there’s a lot of attention paid by the press to whether it’s polarized.” Saltzman is a capable golfer, but with an infant daughter at home, “I haven’t touched a club in months,” he says.
“All you need are big, simple ideas,” says Sam Beard, who celebrated 50 years of working on public issues this month. “You don’t need to be a genius.”
In 1968, the former aide to Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-N.Y., hatched an idea that would pump $179 billion of capital into America’s inner cities over the next 20 years. In a cramped, one-room Manhattan apartment, he reimagined the relationship between American small businesses and the federal government.
“The original idea was very simple,” he recalls. “Here’s America, a land of tremendous opportunity and dreams, but there’s too big of a gap between haves and have-nots”…. What we wanted to do was show that small business could be a job creator, just like the Fortune 500 companies.”
At the heart of income inequality was “redlining,” a practice whereby banks and other institutions denied loans to minority communities. “No one would ever stand up and say, “˜Watch me, I’m a redliner,’ “ Beard says. “They would deny it vehemently.” The solution: government guarantees. Absolved of risk, banks had a strong incentive to pump capital into small and minority-owned businesses, a potentially lucrative market. The solution was simply a matter of creating an apparatus for public-private lending.
Before long, Beard had the attention of Howard Samuels, inventor of the “baggie” and then-director of the Small Business Administration. At one point, Samuels sat in Beard’s living room as 30 volunteers milled around. “He couldn’t believe the energy,” Beard says. “He said, “˜God damn it, more is going on in this apartment than anywhere else in the country!’ “
Some years later, with the help of then-Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and then-Rep. John LaFalce, D-N.Y., Beard established the SBA’s Section 504 Loan Program, focused on local-company development. One by one, Beard helped teach Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and other lending institutions how to issue inner-city small-business loans backed by government guarantees. The program would take on a life of its own: Beard has worked with seven administrations — Democratic and Republican — since the program’s inception.
Beard, 73, was born and raised in New York City. Even though his father, a stockbroker, was heir to a modest fortune, his mother did not allow Beard and his two brothers to “just sit in a chair,” he says. All three attended Yale University, and all three have succeeded: Anson M. Beard Jr. is advisory director of Morgan Stanley, and Peter Beard is an acclaimed photographer.
After college, Sam Beard taught for a year at the Hotchkiss School, a private boarding school in Lakeville, Conn. Told he needed a law degree to enter public service, he enrolled in Stanford Law School — “like a lemming,” he says — but left three-quarters of the way through his first year. Returning to New York City, he served as a staff assistant to then-Mayor Robert Wagner and later as an aide to Sen. Kennedy. When Kennedy was gunned down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968, Beard retreated to his Manhattan apartment, where he laid the groundwork for what would become the SBA’s signature loan program. As a corollary to his work with the federal government, he founded the nonprofit National Development Council, which now operates in more than 130 communities and facilitates $500 million to $800 million of financing per year. He is still chairman of the council.
In 1972, Beard cofounded the Jefferson Awards for Public Service with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the late Sen. Robert Taft Jr., R-Ohio.
Carolyn Alston is a sage of acquisition. The new executive vice president and general counsel at the Coalition for Government Procurement started working at the General Services Administration while still in law school — and she has inhabited the realm of procurement policy ever since.
The 62-year-old was most recently general counsel at the Washington Management Group, a Deltek subsidiary that represents commercial contractors. A native of New Haven, Conn., Alston studied sociology at Cornell University and attended the Georgetown University Law Center. After more than a decade in GSA’s legal office, she served as the agency’s assistant commissioner in charge of the Multiple Award Schedules program, which encompasses $50 billion in government contracts. Over the course of 30 years with the agency, she watched the GSA shrink from a workforce of 40,000 to about 20,000.