Bishop’s grad Winter to work for First Lady

The Bishop’s School will have a graduate in the White House.

Melissa Winter, Class of ’85, was named last week as Michelle Obama’s deputy chief of staff.

“It’s huge and overwhelming,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s an incredible opportunity for me.”

While working in the White House will be a privilege, even more significant is the honor of working for Michelle Obama who, because she will be a trendsetter, makes an amazing mark on the role of First Lady.

“She is a unique and phenomenal individual,” Winter said.

Winter first worked for Mrs. Obama during the campaign, joining her staff in early 2007 and wrapping up in the role as her traveling chief of staff.

Friendly recruiting

A good friend who was Barack Obama’s executive assistant recruited her for the campaign.

“She flew me to Chicago, drove me to their house” to meet Mrs. Obama, Winter recalled. “After and hour and a half interview, I had quit my job of 10 years.”

On Election Night, she was in the hotel room with the Obamas and Bidens.

“I was really focused, not allowing myself to get ahead of myself,” she said, noting that she’d been on the losing side of other campaigns. It wasn’t until the networks put California in Obama’s column that she began to feel that the work of the past two years had paid off, she added.

An art history and French major when she attended Skidmore College, Winter said getting into politics was “sort of a fluke.”

Launching a career

She took an internship that her brother Richard - also a graduate of The Bishop’s School - had signed up for when he got a different one that paid him, she said.

She figured a summer in Washington would be exciting but that would be it.

Instead it launched a career.

Prior to joining the presidential campaign team, Melissa worked for Sen. Joseph Lieberman, most recently as his Senate executive assistant.

She also worked for seven years for former Congressman Norman Mineta of California, who hired her for her first Capitol Hill job.

Proud mama

Patricia Winter, Melissa’s mother who lives in Windemere, took some time out last week to talk about her daughter’s new job. She in upstate New York was preparing to spend Thanksgiving at Richard’s house with Melissa and two other Bishop’s grads, Pam Krepchen and Holly Stone.

She said the opportunity is “amazing for her (Melissa) and amazing for her mother as well.”

During the campaign, Patricia and her son attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver and she was in Michelle Obama’s “family and friends” tent in Grant Park on Election Night while her daughter was with the candidates and their families.

Proud moments

Patricia, whose husband died in 1982, described the president-elect’s wife as “the warmest, most unbelievable person … besides being brilliant, she’s caring and a wonderful mother. Melissa is so lucky to be a part of it all.”

Melissa Winter has worked with the future First Lady since January 2007 when she was the first person hired to work on her campaign staff, her mother said.

A native of Chicago, Melissa Winter moved with her family to La Jolla and attended La Jolla Elementary school in the fifth and sixth grades before starting at Bishop’s, her mother said.

Bishop’s ties

This past summer, Melissa and two other Bishop’s grads who have gone to work in the nation’s capital - Francesca “Cheka” Gage, who works for Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and Laura Keehner, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security - were featured in the school’s quarterly magazine.

In that piece Melissa said her inspiration to get into politics came from a class taught by Melinda Hennessy at Bishop’s.

She told the publication: “I don’t think anybody who’s ever been in a class with Dr. Hennessey will forget that one of the assignments she gave us was to start reading the front page of the newspaper every day … and it sparked something.”