Informing Constituents

Ask Jessica Mancari just what inspired her to pursue a career with the U.S. House of Representatives and she might give you an odd answer – a television station and her father.

Mancari’s love of communications was initially sparked by an elementary school field trip to a local television station, intensified by an elective communications course she took during her senior year at Thomas Dale High School. Growing up with an Army dad gave her a desire to serve her country.

“Coming to Capitol Hill was a perfect way to marry those two passions – communications and American government,” says Mancari, who now serves as communications director for Congressman J. Randy Forbes.

Mancari’s political career began with the Village News, thanks to an article calling for interns at Congressman Forbes’ office. “My mom came to me one day and she had known that I was looking for a summer job, but I didn’t want to do what I’d done in the past – working in a restaurant,” explains Mancari. “I wanted to do something more career-focused and that I could use after graduation. When I was home on summer break and got a copy of the Village News, my mom said Congressman Forbes was looking for interns and that I should apply.” Though she didn’t expect to land the position, Mancari soon found herself working in Forbes’ Colonial Heights offices for the summer. “It’s kind of gone from there!” she says. After her summer in Colonial Heights, Mancari also worked as a press intern in Forbes’ Washington, D.C. office before landing a full-time administrative position after graduating from Lee University in 2006.

While Mancari is no stranger to the competitive nature of some staffers in Washington, she doesn’t share their sentiments. “There are some people who come just to work for Congress – they call it ‘climbing Capitol Hill,’” she says. “After working with Congressman Forbes in college, I was interested in coming to D.C. to work for my Member of Congress.”

Mancari’s job as communications director is fulfilling both on professional and personal levels. Visiting Capitol Hill to see its inner workings and communications directors in action, she knew that she’d found her calling. “I’m very fortunate to be not only a communications director, but to work for Congressman Forbes. That’s my dream job,” she says. “Randy is someone who I respect – not only as my boss, but personally, in his priorities, his convictions, his honesty. He’s not just my boss; he’s a role model for me. I feel very fortunate to work for someone I respect so much.”

In addition, working with her Member of Congress allows Mancari to retain a personal connection to the issues he works on. She says, “When he secures funding for the I-295 Meadowville Interchange, I understand on a personal level how important it is to the region. When the building in Chester Village collapsed, I felt the same sense of shock as individuals from that area. When our office gets an appearance request for the Thomas Dale-Bird game, I know it’s not the typical high school football game!”

Unsurprisingly, however, one of the biggest issues facing Forbes’ office at the moment is the health care debate. “The Congressman has really tried to put an emphasis on meeting constituents where they’re at,” explains Mancari. “Right now, our plan has been to use the internet and social networking sites to reach people.” Forbes’ blog and Facebook page allows him to post comments and ideas and gives constituents a chance to reply back. “He has said that we can have differing opinions, but we should have a discussion about the issues,” Mancari says. “This is what he’s tried to create through Facebook, his blog, and other online resources.”

As communications director, Mancari makes it a priority to stay in communication with Forbes; her status as the Congressman’s spokesperson means knowing his thoughts and feelings on the issues is extremely important. In order to stay abreast of the ever-changing news tide, Mancari finds herself in the office at 7:30 or 8 a.m., scanning the news and sending press clips to Forbes and members of the Congressional staff. “I work directly with Randy to see what he wants to be sharing and communicating that day,” says Mancari. “That includes the information for his website, what he wants to say at events he’s speaking at, and what resources he wants to make available for constituents.” The workload means that she doesn’t find herself heading home until 7 p.m., but also allows each day to be a new experience. “You can guess what’s coming down the pike, but you can never be sure until it actually gets there,” she explains.

Though her long-term goals include possibly opening a private public relations firm, for now, Mancari is content where she is. “I love my job!” she enthuses. “I enjoy seeing the potential in things – ideas, messages, and people – and how best to reach that potential. I think as long as I’m doing that, I’ll be happy.”

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