View from the Hill

Commissioner Ted Brennan

Working on Capitol Hill can be real pressure cooker. Mounds of paperwork, short deadlines and never ending demands. But, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am honored to work among our nations leaders, helping them to form policies that help our nation grow and prosper. I have met leaders from around world and have taken part in many newsworthy events. I work in a place like no other in the world and I am proud to serve.

While my work is often grueling, it can sometimes be humorous. As a young staffer in the Office of Congressman Cass Ballenger of North Carolina, I had the responsibility of responding to the many pages of mail, e-mail, faxes and telephone messages we received every day. Often times, Congressmen receive mail that would be more suited for a psychiatrist to answer than a Congressman, but we still had to do our job.

For several weeks, a man would call to complain about a "black helicopter" flying around his home. The black helicopter is a common symbol some people associate with a government conspiracy, extraterrestrials or other sinister plots. Some even claim that these black helicopters have actually hurt them. With no real evidence, these claims are often just ignored by the local police and elected officials. So when this gentleman would call in, I would politely listen to him and then laugh it off. But, this man kept calling with unusual persistence.

After becoming annoyed by these calls, I finally told him to go into his home, close the shutters and wear tinfoil on his hat to make the helicopter go away. Tinfoil, to the conspiracy theorists, apparently wards off black helicopters and evil satellite transmissions. I hoped my advice would put an end to this. However, it was not to be.

Among my main duties, I had to cut newspaper clippings about the Congressman in all the local and national papers. One day, as I read a local paper, a front page article boasted that Congressman Ballenger was to be honored by the local sheriff for getting him two surplus helicopters from the National Guard. The accompanying photo showed the sheriff, the pilots and — you guessed it— two newly painted and unmarked black helicopters!!!!! The man was right and here I was making fun of him for being a crazy alien conspiracy theorist!!!! Lesson learned.

I now research every constituent inquiry, no matter how crazy it seems. After all, isn’t that my job?

[Editors note: After his election, we asked Commissioner Brennan if he would periodically author articles on what life was like on Capital Hill in general, and on any issues currently pending that might be of interest to the greater Emmitsburg area community.  This is the first in what we hope will be a long series of articles, and we look forward to working with Ted and bringing them to you]

Read other articles by Commissioner Brennan