What it’s like to work for Rahm Emanuel
Six twentysomethings tell their tales of tweeting for, traveling with and taking date-night suggestions from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
SEVERAL OF EMANUEL’S YOUNGEST employees bonded on the campaign trail, when it was common for staffers to eat all three meals together as they shared an “all-consuming” schedule: seven days a week from early in the morning until 11pm. They also had time to bond during the mayor’s first, frenetic 100 days in office. They trust and rely on one another to get work done.
Many of the young staffers have similar personality traits: They’re geeky, sarcastic, modest and genuinely passionate about Chicago. They’re all trying to figure out how to balance their work ethic with a normal life. (A thirtysomething senior spokesperson for the mayor describes millennials in politics as having a “paranoia that I’ve got to work harder than anyone else because if I stop they’re going to take [my job] from me.”)
It’s not unusual to see the young staffers grabbing after-work drinks at Twisted Spoke, Big Star, the Red Canary, Nana or Monk’s Pub. They set one another up with friends: “I try to play the matchmaker with the outside world,” says Valencia, who is known around the office for throwing great parties. While leaving a recent Little Village press conference before the rest of his team, Fischler calls over his shoulder: “You’re going to bring me tacos!”
At Weisser’s 25th birthday party at Haymarket Pub & Brewery in late June, several of her colleagues are in attendance. Dressed in a snug pink scoop-neck dress, Weisser sways in the dim lighting to a mix of ’90s pop and Top 40 hits before leaving to meet up with another staffer at Bonny’s in Logan Square.
“I’m friendly and social with all my coworkers,” Weisser explains to me over gelato at Lavazza, a coffee shop near City Hall. “You can go out for drinks…after work and you can tell funny stories about when you were in college…and then go into a meeting” without worrying about anyone blabbing.
Emanuel is known for careful staging, and his press shop is the kind you’d expect from a Washington politician: revisionist, controlling and hyper-image-conscious. Staffers were hesitant to talk about their personal lives for this story. After Goudie’s column criticized Cooper’s public Facebook page that showed “her partying with friends, in beach attire and at a slot machine,” Cooper made her profile private. Other staffers also keep their photos private and the few you can see are usually of Chicago: the skyline, the flag.
During my reporting, Weisser, who is cheerful but has what a former colleague describes as a “no nonsense, no bullshit” approach to her work, serves as the office’s reputation monitor. For the most part, she does not interrupt my interviews, but she does follow up meticulously to request that I clean up language ( I decline).
As Valencia says of her own job: “It’s all about the mayor and making sure we’re moving his agenda forward and we have a good image for this office.”