Five Small Business Committee Staffers to Know

Amy Harder and Stacy Kaper

You know the political stump line “Small businesses are the backbone of America” has some truth to it when Congress devotes entire committees to them. The Small Business committees in the House and Senate ostensibly have jurisdiction over just one agency—the Small Business Administration—but they crisscross virtually every policy area in Washington. Here are the staff people you should know on the committees on both sides of the Capitol.

Jane Campbell, majority staff director, Senate Small Business Committee.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chairwoman of the panel since 2009, hired Campbell, an Ohio native, in January after she served as Landrieu’s chief of staff for the previous four years. “I was ready to be doing a little bit more policy,” Campbell said in an interview Friday. Politics played a factor, too, with Landrieu running for reelection in a state becoming redder by the cycle. “It was also important given the complexities that she’s going to face in the 2014 election, that her chief of staff be from Louisiana," Campbell said. (The committee’s former staff director, Louisiana native Donald Cravins Jr., switched spots with Campbell to be Landrieu’s new chief of staff.) Despite persistent congressional gridlock, Campbell says committee roundtables help produce legislation on a range of issues, including financing mechanisms. She also noted that budget cuts are starting to add up for small businesses. “We’re beginning to hear from small businesses that the agencies are cutting their contracts to small businesses but continuing contracts to their large businesses,” Campbell said. “Senator Landrieu is very concerned [that] the agencies as they reduce their budgets remain attentive about continuing their small-business contracts.” Campbell also noted that many issues, such as disaster aid and refinancing mechanisms, have bipartisan support from the committee’s new ranking member, Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho. Campbell and Landrieu first met in 1985 when they were both the youngest women elected to their respective legislatures—Landrieu in Louisiana and Campbell in Ohio.

Kevin Wheeler, deputy majority staff director,Senate Small Business Committee.

Wheeler is known in the small-business community as “St. Kevin” because of her deep institutional knowledge and know-how of working with various groups. Wheeler has worked at the committee for 16 years, including for former Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. Wheeler wouldn’t elaborate on her nickname, but her new boss, Campbell, didn’t hesitate. “Her relationships across the aisle and bicamerally and within the groups that come before the committee are something that we all use,” Campbell said. Wheeler has covered virtually every issue in the committee has addressed over those 16 years, but the ones she’s stayed with and focused on the most are two related programs centering around research, development, and innovation for small businesses.

Skiffington Holderness, minority staff director, Senate Small Business Committee.

When National Journal interviewed Holderness over the phone last week, he was culling through one of the many amendments to the Senate budget bill, which goes to show that no committee is without a stake in such a broad debate. Holderness has also been spending much of his time organizing the committee and finding what issues to focus on since Risch became ranking member at the beginning of this Congress. One issue Risch—and therefore Holderness—will be focused on is what impact regulations, such as those imposed by the Affordable Care Act, have on small businesses. Holderness, an Idaho native, has been working for Risch since his first run for the Senate in the 2008 cycle and has focused on budget, finance, and tax issues.

Lori Salley, majority staff director, House Small Business Committee.

As staff director, Salley is the committee’s top Republican manager coordinating and overseeing policy and communications staff. She joined the panel when Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., became chairman in 2011. Since that time she has helped implement the chairman’s goal of collecting and responding to more direct input from the small-business community. The committee has launched an open mic application through its website to gather personal testimonials from small-business leaders to gather feedback about the impact of government regulations, which has become a core focus of the panel’s work. Salley’s other Capitol Hill experience includes working for former Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, throughout her entire congressional career, ultimately serving as her chief of staff. After Pryce’s retirement in 2009, Salley took a break from the Hill to serve as executive director at the nonprofit Children's Cause for Cancer Advocacy.

Michael Day, minority staff director, House Small Business Committee.

In a town where pols infamously get by on ambiguous, noncommittal answers, Day is known for taking the opposite tack. He is to the point and lets constituents know in black-or-white terms whether his boss, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., is with their issue or against it. That kind of deep understanding of his boss’s positions might be easier for Day than the average staff director, since he is also chief of staff in her personal office and has worked for her ever since his former boss, former Rep. Leslie Byrne, D-Va., lost a reelection bid in 1994. Day also has nearly 25 years of Capitol Hill experience, which comes in handy. Day has Velazquez’s confidence and she has been known to follow his cues and take a tough tone when grilling witnesses in hearings. He wears many hats—as top adviser, staff director, and crisis manager, depending upon what the need is at the moment.


Hot Seats is a weekly series highlighting significant staff positions in the 113th Congress. To suggest a position or staffer for the list, please tweet to @NJLeadership or e-mail Managing Editor Kristin Roberts