At age 27, Jamie Fleet was named to a significant post in Washington, D.C.
Just how significant?
Enough that the 2002 Gettysburg College graduate was seated on the platform for Barack Obama's Inauguration and was present for both George W. Bush's final State of the Union address and Obama's first. Fleet was on the floor when the House of Representatives approved historic health-care legislation. And, while passing through the White House Rose Garden one day, he briefly joined aides in tossing a football with Obama.
"I experience humbling and awe-inspiring moments in this job regularly," said Fleet, who is staff director for the Committee on House Administration, supervising some 35 employees. "We oversee all the back-office operations of Congress," Fleet said. Responsibilities include the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, human resources, finance, security, and the Capitol building itself, such as construction of its new Visitor Center, which Fleet termed "the first major expansion in 200 years." The committee also handles legislation relating to elections and tabulates the Electoral College's votes.
Fleet's political career began early. He was elected to the Gettysburg Borough Council at age 18, while still studying political science and religion at Gettysburg College. He went on to work for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and then to form his own political consulting firm that ran campaigns in locales as far flung as New Hampshire and the State of Washington. He also worked for Philadelphia City Controller Jonathan Saidel.
It was in Philly that Fleet joined the mayoral campaign of Congressman Robert Brady, who ultimately did not win but was impressed by Fleet's work. When Brady became chair of the Committee on Administration in 2007, he hired Fleet. Now the two often commute together from Philadelphia, where both live. A couple of nights a week, Fleet sleeps in his office and showers at the House gym.
"Age was not a factor" in hiring Fleet, Brady said in a Gettysburg Times story, "especially with someone as gifted and capable as Jamie."
Brady (D-Pa.) is far from the only member of Congress whom Fleet has come to know well, since the committee assigns office and parking spaces and provides guidance on personnel matters, spending official resources, and other issues. "He's probably the most recognized person here, and that includes the Speaker of the House," Brady told the Gettysburg Times.
"I sit down with some of the most thoughtful and serious lawmakers in the country, and because of the tools Gettysburg College gave me, I'm confident I can make a serious contribution," Fleet said, giving special credit to religion Prof. Buz Myers, through whom he learned to probe not only what someone believes but why, and political science Prof. Ken Mott, who illustrated the value of open-minded discussion.
A wide-ranging and rigorous liberal arts education is "an experience without rival," Fleet said. "It has uniquely situated me to enjoy success in what is a very competitive area." He said he will always be grateful for the Eisenhower Scholarship and other aid that made his Gettysburg education possible: "I owe more than I can say to the College's generosity."
Fleet isn't the only Gettysburg College graduate on Capitol Hill. He said he sometimes runs into others such as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a 1957 graduate who waged a high-profile presidential campaign, and Elizabeth Macin Bartlett, a 2004 graduate and legislative assistant for U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).
What's the next step for Fleet? He's not sure, except for one thing: "I'm going to try to be a good dad." His wife, Kate Philips -- formerly press secretary for Rendell and now managing director of The Karma Agency, a Philadelphia marketing firm -- gave birth to their daughter, Rory, in September 2009.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences. With some 2,500 students, it is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Jim Hale, online content editor
Posted Dec. 8, 2009