How to pick your staff

As our newly elected Congresswoman, Kristi Noem is spending the week doing her Congressional orientation, the work has begun to fill staff positions in her new office.  As a former Capitol Hill staffer, I have some thoughts on what Rep Noem (heck all the rest of the freshman class too) should be looking for when making those hiring decisions.

Most important Staff job  – obviously is Chief of Staff.  Qualities that I’d recommend in a CoS — This is a position where previous experience is going to be critical.  The new Rep is already working on a big learning curve and Washington can be very overwhelming, it would be very helpful to have someone with experience at the helm of the office.  This must be a person the Rep. can absolutely trust to carry out the directives and goals of the Rep — after all it’s the Rep who answers to voters.  The CoS should  also be the person who regularly communicates those goals and values to the rest of the staff and ensures the office is conducting their jobs in a way that is consistent with the priorities of the Rep.  The CoS helps the Rep stay true to their core values by being a sounding board for the Rep and the staff.

In my personal opinion, the CoS has to be the bad cop for the office as well….the enforcer role shouldn’t be left to the Rep.  It’s also nice if the CoS comes from or has close ties to the home district.

In short — an ideal CoS is someone who has experience, an ability to lead the office and be loyal to the Rep.

Is the CoS sometimes smarter or better qualified to serve than the actual member — I think there are many CoS who secretly believe this to be true — but the bottom line a good CoS knows — they aren’t the person whose name is on the ballot.

Next up — scheduler

22 Replies to “How to pick your staff”

  1. Bill Fleming

    Hard to pass this one up without mentioning that Pete Rouse is currently Chief of Staff for the POTUS having formerly served in a similar capacity for both Tom Daschle and Jim Abourezk. Fascinating how much engagement our fair state has in the Nation’s politics.

  2. Victor

    Barnett is a phenominal person and has more of a grasp on the budget than most others I’ve spoken with. He is reserved and will keep many of his opinions to himself rather than beat a deadhorse or start an argument. He is a consensus builder and will build solid relationships with people in the legislature. Make no mistake he is one sharp knife.

  3. Arrowhead

    I’ve been impressed with Barnett. I think of all of the new constitutional candidates he fits the mold of someone with a bright future like Jackley or Dusty. Smart, articulate, energetic and has some good ideas.

    If I didn’t think he had ideas to promote our state in a direction for the future I would have voted for Pat Miller at convention or Julie Bartling in the general.

    He impressed me far more than Gant at the convention.

  4. Troy Jones

    As someone who has been there, you hit the nail on the head.

    Experience matters. Initially a COS sets up the office, protocols and procedures. If the member has little past legislative experience, they also advise on how the system works. Not always is there someone from the state available to do this.

    Trust matters. In the end, only one person is accountable the member. Yet, to be effective the staff has to act as their agent in so many ways. The member must have trust initially in the COS or develop it quickly.

    Roots matter. A member is accountable first to their oath and then to their constituents. A COS who doesn’t come from the state will be handicapped in some matters in providing leadership on a day-to-day basis. It can be mitigated with dedicated communication between the member and COS.

    Hard to find all three and in most cases, compromises have to be made based on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and the member. For instance, KN has served in the Legislature and leadership so she isn’t starting from scratch regarding process. The key is the member understands where the compromise was made to insure the members interests are best served.

    Personally, if KN can’t find a South Dakotan to fill this role, she should hire a “rented COS” who sets up the office, protocols and procedures plus advises KN on the nuances of House operations and internal minefields while training this COS’s successor. There is an adage in business: Plan for five years and prepare to execute tomorrow.

  5. Anonymous

    Sounds like Josh Shields is her man. I mean Thune team, Curd Campaign manager, Kristi Noem campaign manager and transition team member.

    I think he is a little bit about himself but he seems to jump from one person to another really well and I asume he wouldn’t have worked for Noem if he ripped on Curd to her.

    I guess if he ever trashed Curd to her I wouldn’t trust him to not ripp on me but if he didn’t say anything bad about his former candidate I’d trust him.

  6. caheidelberger

    Smart? Bull. She rode an easy cultural wave. And I don’t think it’s elitist to demand that a Congresswoman from South Dakota be able to enunciate a coherent agriculture policy. (Still haven’t heard one yet from her.) It’s not elitist to demand quality. We want the best legislator, not the best cowgirl image.

  7. Les

    Grud, you’ve been censored, you dog you!

    (Les, if I catch name calling while I’m doing routine maintenance, I still reserve the right to exercise the unapprove button. -pp)

  8. William


    Let’s let the next session of the US Congress start, before we start tearing down our Rep, OK? The election is over, now we have to start watching what happens when Congress goes into session before we have anything to judge her performance by.

  9. Les

    Good morning PP. The song Ghost Riders in the Sky comes to mind seeing you here PP 😉

    Deputy SOS PP?

    (Les – Thanks for the kind words. Not blogging is killing me, but the new crew is awesome. -PP)

  10. Troy Jones

    There are too maxim’s that have served me well:

    “To find the stupidest person in the room, find the one who thinks he is the smartest in the room.”

    “The stupidest person is the one who assesses another’s intelligence based upon the degree the other person agrees with them.”

    Cory thinks anyone who disagrees with him is stupid and he believes this because he is smarter than us.

  11. USD

    Have heard that the new Representative is intersted in Rick Melmer USD Dean for the position. Doubt if he would move to DC.


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