Working the Hill
Charlie Harman’s political career has spanned four Georgia senators
When Charlie Harman (BBA ’71) went to Washington, D.C., in 1970, he didn’t realize he was setting the course for his career. A summer internship with Sen. Richard B. Russell (D-GA) led to eventual fulltime positions with three other U.S. senators from Georgia.
“The objective was to spend the summer with my girlfriend (now wife of 37 years) in Washington,” Harman says of the internship. “I got the bug, the so-called Potomac fever.”
Now chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Harman is a seasoned veteran of Georgia politics in the nation’s capital. He daily supervises the 40-plus employees working in Chambliss’ Washington and Georgia offices.
“This is an opportunity to work in a place—the Senate—where you have the intersection of public service, public policy and politics,” Harman says.
It’s Harman’s fourth stint in Washington. After his internship with Russell the Atlanta native graduated from UGA and took a job as a savings and loan officer with Fulton Federal Savings. But by 1980, he was yearning to return to Washington and got on board with Sen. Sam Nunn’s office in constituent services. He worked first in Georgia and then moved back to D.C., where he served as Nunn’s chief of staff from 1987 to 1992.
“I want you to know,” he remembers telling Nunn, “you’re fulfilling a lifelong dream from when I worked with Sen. Russell.”
In 1992, he returned to the private sector as president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. In 1996, he was named vice president of public affairs for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Georgia.
“I really enjoyed health care, the finance and benefits side of funding health care,” he says.
But just seven years later, Harman returned to D.C. to work with Zell Miller, appointed to fill the unexpired Senate seat of Paul Coverdell, who had died suddenly. Harman took a leave of absence from Blue Cross to work as Miller’s chief of staff for three months, organizing his Senate office. Miller ran for the seat in November 2000 and was elected to serve the final four years of Coverdell’s term. Harman returned to Georgia and his job at Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
His days in D.C. weren’t over yet, however. In December 2006, while working at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, he got a call from Chambliss, who asked Harman if he knew anyone who would want to work in Chambliss’ D.C. office.
“I said, ‘I sure do, and I’m one of them,’” Harman recalls.
Thirty-six years after he interned for Russell, operating the manual elevator in the Senate office building, Harman finds himself back in the thick of national politics.
“The timing was right. I had a chance to come back and do what I always loved,” he says. “I have proven that there are second acts in life.”