A Fixture in the House

Jay Pierson ’69 has worked on the floor of the House of Representatives for more than 25 years. His career began in the Office of the House Journal Clerk and the House Republican Cloak Room, but he soon moved up to floor assistant for the minority leader. When the Republicans took control in 1995, he became floor assistant to the speaker (now Dennis Hastert).

Known for his expertise in parliamentary procedure and arcane House rules, Jay has provided detailed legislative information to lawmakers throughout the years. In recognition of his many contributions, he will receive the 2004 Alumnus of the Year award at Homecoming.

“I must know something about every single piece of legislation,” he says. “Republican members expect me to be informed and to tell them what a bill or amendment will do and if there is a Republican position on the issue.” He provides only information; the whip’s office does all the lobbying.

Now that he works for the majority, Jay gets involved in scheduling bills. “The difference from minority to majority is huge,” he says. “We control everything.”

Jay never expected to work in politics. He earned a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Maryland. But his wife, JoAnne Boyd Pierson ’69, had a job with the House minority leader, and she got him involved on Capitol Hill. He got hooked and never looked back. “I love what I do,” he says.

While Jay can put in long hours, he hasn’t built his life around his work. His family has always come first, and he has been an active member of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md. The Piersons have two sons: Joel graduated from Westmont in 2001 with a degree in music and plays in two bands in Santa Barbara; Jeff is a junior at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

“Politics must be secondary to faith and to life,” Jay says. “Ultimate answers don’t lie in politics. No matter what we do or legislate, we won’t solve all our problems. The issues are incredibly complex.

“I hear both sides of every bill, which allows me to be well informed. I think it’s important to choose positions carefully.”

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