The staff assistant has many different roles in a congressional office. They greet visitors as they enter the office, manage tours and flag orders, teach interns, drive the congressman/woman, and complete other tasks as assigned. Staff assistants are some of the most hardworking people on Capitol Hill. Sadly, they are also some of the most underappreciated. If you ever work on Capitol Hill or even visit, be sure to thank the person at the front desk. They work very hard to serve their office and their constituents.
While the staff assistant’s job duties are different in every office, most have the following responsibilities:
- Managing the interns: Most intern programs are run by staff assistants. They hire, train, and nurture their interns to make sure they have a great experience in the office.
- Greeting office visitors: While most congressional staff sit in the back of the office, the staff assistant sits at the front desk. They are the first person that visitors see when they walk in and are expected to be friendly and welcoming to all guests.
- Answering the phones: Constituents call the office every day. The staff assistant answers the phone, records their concerns, and passes them along to the legislative team. Some people who call the office are very rude. The staff assistant is expected to be kind and courteous to everyone who calls.
- Processing physical mail: Constituents write letters to the congressman/woman every day. The staff assistant sorts through the physical mail and gives it to the appropriate legislative staff.
- Scheduling constituent tours: Staff assistants schedule Capitol Hill tours for constituents and teach interns to give these tours. They also schedule White House tours for constituents.
- Driving the congressman/woman: Staff assistants are often tasked with driving their boss around Washington D.C. Many staff assistant positions require the candidate to be able to drive and have a car.
- Processing flag orders: Constituents can order official United States flags from their congressman/woman. Staff assistants receive orders for these flags, process the payments, and ship the flags to the correct addresses.
- Writing Constituent Letters: Staff assistants help the legislative correspondents respond to letters and emails from constituents. They draft form letters and receive feedback from the legislative team. Writing letters helps prepare them for more senior roles that they will likely apply to.
Staff assistants should never be underestimated. Most are young adults just out of college who were recently interns themselves. They are also ambitious people looking to have meaningful careers as policymakers or communications staff. The staff assistant position is a stepping-stone to better things. Most staff assistants only stay in their position for one to two years before being promoted to legislative staff. They can be a valuable resource to interns who want to know more about doing an entry-level position in a congressional office as they were likely recently interns themselves.