Catchin’ Up with Mark Libell
Class Year: 2003
Major at MC: History
Senior Thesis Topic: Bobby Kennedy's 1968 Presidential Campaign
Current Town/City of Residence: Alexandria, Virginia
Occupation: Assistant Congressional Liaison at the Federal Reserve
Family: Married in June 2014 to Carrie Rafer
Describe your career path since graduating from MC.
After graduating in 2003, I spent the next 6 months living on Chris Hixon's (class of ‘03) floor in Arlington, Virginia while trying to find a job on Capitol Hill. Ultimately, I ended up getting a job in the mailroom of Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan and worked my way up from there. After two years with her I realized I needed an advanced degree and so went back home to Alabama where I crammed law school into two years. I then came back to Washington DC and was a policy advisor for Congressman Bart Gordon from Tennessee and then Congresswoman Linda Sanchez from California. My specialty was tax policy and while working on the Hill, I completed an LLM in tax from Georgetown Law at night. After five years working in the House of Representatives, I moved over to the Senate where I spent four years working as Economic Policy adviser for Senator Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia, including two years as his Legislative Director (LD). As his LD, I managed his legislative team and advised him on all policy issues before the Senate.
When Senator Rockefeller retired at the end of 2014, I knew I wanted to stay in public service, and when I was approached about an opportunity to do Congressional Relations for the Federal Reserve, I knew the job was too good to pass up. I'm getting to learn economics policy from some of the brightest minds in the country while still staying involved with Congress.
Describe your job or a typical day “in the office.”
I have only just started the new job at the Federal Reserve, so I do not have a typical day yet. The job can involve meetings with key Fed staff to learn what is in the works, or it can involve prepping one of the Federal Reserve Board Governors or the Chair for Congressional Testimony. A lot of time is spent talking to Congressional staff to stay apprised of the Fed-related activity that impacts their constituents. It's a new world for me though and I don't know what I don't know here yet. There's a steep learning curve and fortunately I work with great folks who will help me overcome it.
What has been your most exciting/enjoyable professional experience to date?
I loved my time as Senator Rockefeller's Legislative Director. I think folks get into this business because they want to help people but they also have a vision of "being in the room." And that was an "in the room" job. An LD gets to be a generalist working on everything and I love learning, so that was a treat. My first New Year's while dating my now wife, I missed midnight because I was sitting in the cloakroom off the Senate floor with Senator Rockefeller until 2:00 am as Congress worked to extend expiring tax cuts. Those are tough nights at the time but the ones you look back on most fondly later.
Since graduating from MC, what has made you the most proud?
I'm proud I made it through that first year in DC. It would have been easy to give up and go home. The Mark Libell who first came to MC would have done that, but the Mark Libell who graduated four years later had been given the tools he needed to grit through that time sleeping on the floor and keep at it.
How did your MC experience prepare you for your vocation and/or life?
Dr. Dan Klingensmith was instrumental in my development. I can't tell you how many conversations I had in his office about political history over the years and those gave me confidence. On top of that, there was an event my senior year on campus for folks who were interested in careers in Washington DC. There were two speakers, one a Republican who was an older gentleman from the area who had been an Ambassador during the first Bush Administration. The other was a young woman in her 20’s who had worked in the Clinton administration. She was from South Dakota and hearing her tell her story of making it to and in Washington inspired me to roll the dice and give it a shot. I hope I can do something similar for future MC generations one day.
In general, the small school experience was vital for me. I was sheltered and shy coming to MC and needed to be in an atmosphere where you couldn't help but know everyone to come out of my shell. I grew up a lot over four years as a result. I was able to play tennis and do theatre and be around different sorts of people. I had my comfort zones challenged and figured out who I really was and who I wanted to be. There was a lot of change over those four years.
Professionally or personally, what’s still on your “bucket list?"
There are still some things I want to try. I would like to work for a President at some point and see things from that perspective. I would also like to teach a J-term course on Congress and find other ways to give back to the college. But in general, I'm very fortunate to have had the experiences I have had and am just excited to see where this path takes me.
What’s your best memory from your years as a student at MC?
It's the people. Spending time in Dr Klingensmith's office, riding in the van with my teammates, coming back from a tennis match or hanging out in someone's dorm after play practice for Hamlet. I was really fortunate to be around so many great people who were willing to be so tolerant with me while I was finding my way.