WASHINGTON – Jess Goode wants to make movies.
So after almost five years with Sen. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio),Goode is packing his bags on Capitol Hill and heading beyond the Beltway,a trend increasingly common to Washington insiders looking for a break,a higher salary or a change of pace.
Goode,a 1996 Ohio University journalism graduate,began his career with Strickland before he graduated. When an opening as a press secretary became available for the 1996 campaign,Goode sought it.
This fall’s campaign,however,was Goode’s fourth and it wore him out,he said.
“Campaigns are all consuming,” he said. “You spend every waking hour on them.”
The pace on the Hill is no easier. Goode said he spent 10 to 12 hours each day politicking while he worked with Strickland.
“I certainly hope the drama on the Hill will help me make films,” he said.
Though Goode has not been accepted into his alma mater’s School of Film – ranked among the top 12 in the United States by Entertainment Weekly – he will join OU’s Office of News Services.
And he will do so without taking a pay cut.
As Strickland’s media pointman,Goode said he earned $37,000 a year.
When Goode makes the move back to Athens,he will earn $39,500,said John Burns,OU director of legal affairs.
He will work fewer hours – about 25 hours a week,he said – than on the Hill,might qualify for free or discounted tuition and will work under another veteran Washington spin doctor.
Leesa Brown,Ohio University assistant vice president of communications,worked as a Department of Justice spokeswoman for four years.
When she heard Goode was considering film school,Brown immediately started recruiting him.
“Seeing the press Congressman Strickland gets,someone’s doing their job,” she said.
And when Ohio University saw Brown,it knew they wanted her,too.
Brown worked as the Justice Department’s media liaison during the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. She also worked as the liaison during the Justice Department’s case against Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in 1996.
She earned $88,000 in her last year with the Justice Department,she said.
“It’s an intense environment; it’s a high burnout factor,” she said. “You go at it really hard,as long as you can.”
Brown took a break from Washington and accepted a job with the Sierra Nevada Forrest Protection Campaign.
She thought the experience would help quench her interest in the environment,but it diminished her pocketbook in the process.
Her new job with the environmental coalition paid $32,000 a year,a $56,000 a year drop from the Justice Department,she said.
So Brown then emptied her desk at the coalition and became part of the trend: Washington power players moving to university campuses for a change of pace,less stress and potentially higher pay,she said.
University officials are seeking experienced media experts,Brown said.
“Higher education is going through a shakeup over how we get publicity and how we market ourselves,” she said. “Working at OU is a lot more demanding than a federal task force.”
That different kind of pressure is part of the reason seasoned Washington power brokers are moving to U.S. universities,she said.
That,and Brown’s salary: $89,250 this year,said John Goodwin,OU payroll manager.
Another series of shakeups on the Hill resulted from the exit of former president Clinton’s administration and the entrance of George W. Bush’s team.
“Anytime there’s a change in administrations,people cycle through,” Brown said.
Guillermo Meneses was a spokesman at the Department of Energy. Now,he is job hunting.
“There are so many resumes flying around,” Meneses said. “I’ve had lots of interviews and leads,but nothing I can call my own.”
Meneses,who earned $74,697 in his last year at the department,looks to move into the private sector,he said.
“Now,we explore other options.”
Other political insiders are leaving Washington in the change of administration.
Donna Shalala,Secretary of Health and Human Services in the cabinet,takes her experience of eight years service to Florida’s University of Miami where she will serve as president.
Officials at UM would not comment on her pay. The UM is a private institution; its financial records are not open to the public.
Nor are the records open at Harvard University,the destination of former Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. A two-year member of Clinton’s cabinet,Richardson committed to lecture at least two semesters at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
He is slated to teach this semester,but the second semester Richardson will lecture has not been determined,said Aine Cryts,a spokeswoman for the Kennedy School.
Richardson will spend one day a week in Boston to lecture.
Yet others leave Washington to seek less stressful jobs,still in government.
“I left because I wanted to move out of D.C. for a better way of life,” said Kristin French,a former deputy press secretary for Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.). “I loved working on Capitol Hill,but my whole life revolved around it.”
French left Washington in 1989 making about $30,000. She then worked at a private public relations firm for one year,making about the same wages.
For the past five years,after a five-year stint with the state’s Republican Party,French worked as public affairs director for Douglas County,Colo.
She earns $77,000 a year in that capacity.
But going back to Washington is not out of the question for French,she said.
“I would go back. It’s more the opportunity and the position,not the money.”