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Decade in Washington leads White House job

Kristine Simmons' interest in politics was well established before she graduated from RIT in 1990 with a degree in professional and technical communication.

Still, she seems amazed at the path that led to her current job as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush for Domestic Policy.

And she credits RIT with getting her started on that path. She was very active in student government, and worked on what is today known as the Horton Distinguished Speaker Series. "My interest in politics was heightened," she says.

On a May visit to RIT, Kristine Simmons chats with her former professors, Bruce Austin, professional and technical communication, (center) and Louis Andolino, political science.
"When I graduated, Andrew Dougherty (special assistant to former RIT President Richard Rose) helped me set up informational interviews in Washington." she says. "Through Congressman Frank Horton's office, I was offered a four-month internship on the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, I'm sure as a courtesy to RIT." That job gave her a chance to prove her worth: The internship turned into a permanent position on the professional staff, where she stayed for seven years.

As part of her duties with that committee, she worked on the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, the second bill in the Republican's "Contract with America" to become law. She led a team charged with drafting legislation to restructure the Department of Commerce.

In 1997, she became a staff member with the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, chaired by Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). Prior to taking the White House job in March of this year, she worked for two years as staff director of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia, which is under the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, chaired by Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio). In this position, Simmons led the Subcommittee's efforts to address challenges facing the federal work force.

Meanwhile, she married John Simmons (business administration, finance option) '91, who recently became senior advisor at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP, where he will work with former U.S. Representative Bill Paxon. Kristine and John been together since college, and now have two children, 312-year-old Caroline and 112-year-old John Michael.

Like many working parents, Kristine strives to balance her family commitments with her job. When the opportunity at the White House came along, she thought it over very carefully before accepting.

The new post so far seems a good fit for her family life as well as her job experience. Among her duties: advising the president and White House senior staff on federalism, intergovernmental relations and government reform issues; co-chairing the Bush Administration's District of Columbia Task Force; and serving as White House Domestic Policy Council liaison with cabinet agencies and Congress on federalism and government reform issues. It doesn't happen on a daily basis, but briefing President Bush on these topics is part of her job. She has an office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and a pass that gets her into the White House West Wing.

She loved her previous jobs, but the 11-year Washington veteran admits that working for the White House is special. "It's exciting to be there."

On a visit to RIT in May to speak at a Women's Council luncheon, Simmons marveled at the changes. "I'm impressed with the development of the campus, in terms of both the academic buildings and those intended to enhance student life."

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