Wednesday, December 3, 2008

People For Pete

Tonight, down on Capitol Hill, is the final gathering of former and current staff for my old boss, U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici, who's retiring from office. I wasn't able to attend any of the similar events in New Mexico, so I'm glad Barb and I will be able to make tonight's celebration.

While cleaning out my basement last month, I came across a manila folder crammed with mementos from my Hill years, and found this photo of the Senator's personal staff, taken at the annual Christmas party in 1993:

That's me in the back row, just right of center, with the dark red sweater and the beard, trying way too hard to look older than my 26 years.

Fifteen years later, I not only can still name nearly everyone in this picture, but I'm still good friends with many of them. This particular batch made up the Senator's personal staff for much of the mid-1990s, and because we worked together for so long -- a stretch of five years with a relatively cohesive staff is a rarity on the Hill -- we were a tight knit group. To this day, we still refer to ourselves as the Domenici Mafia.

Of the members of our Mafia, Ari Fleischer -- kneeling in the front row in the Santa hat -- is probably the best known and most famous alumnus, serving as President George W. Bush's press secretary in the early days of his administration. But the rest of the gang aren't doing too shabbily, either. Some are serving in high-ranking positions in the federal government, while others are lobbyists. Some ran for -- and won -- locally-elected offices. There are attorneys and forest rangers and health care workers, retirees and stay-at-home parents. A few worked for the Senator right until the end. And there's not a bad banana in the bunch.

I'm looking forward to seeing many of them tonight, along with countless others who made up the staff over the Senator's 36 years in office. It's always amazing to me how quickly we all fall together, even when we haven't seen each other in over a decade. You're never really out of the family.