Name: Matt Whitlock
Hometown: Los Santos, Calif.
Position: Spokesman for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
Alma Mater: Brigham Young University, class of 2012. B.A. in English, with minor in Japanese
Washington Examiner: What's it like growing up Mormon in northern California?
Whitlock: I grew up in a fairly conservative, Republican home. Coming from the Bay area, I didn't really have any other conservative Republican friends. I got into a lot of heated debates with the friends I did make, but they were still my friends.
Washington Examiner: What was it like going from California to BYU?
Whitlock: BYU was a bit of a culture shock, suddenly being around so many people who had similar beliefs. I ended up getting a lot of friends who came from places where there weren't so many other members of the church. So, [we] got to assimilate in Utah together.
Washington Examiner: Were you always interested in politics?
Whitlock: Not really. What put me onto it was my mission work in Japan. People would literally come up to me and ask if I knew the president once they learned I was American. That gave me a lot of opportunities to tell them things about my country. It made me feel more patriotic.
Washington Examiner: So, how did you get involved in politics?
Whitlock: As a Senate intern. I was looking for a fun summertime job in 2011 while at BYU, and I got one in Sen. Mike Lee's office. The senator gave me an opportunity to write some speeches. I got to write one about the 100th anniversary of the 4-H Club. Then, they asked me to write some more. It was an exciting thing for an intern.
Washington Examiner: Did you go into politics right after you graduated?
Whitlock: No, I first found myself a job at a top public relations firm, the Brunswick Group. They are based out of London but have a midsized D.C. office. They do a lot odd stuff with crisis management. They were some of the most brilliant people I have ever worked with.
Washington Examiner: What did you get out of that experience?
Whitlock: More than anything, it showed me how interesting that world of crisis management is. It was fascinating to see how people solve these problems through communication and other tools. My experience at Brunswick was all with corporate clients, mostly tech and finance. Because I was at the lower level, I got to work with a lot of different clients.
Washington Examiner: How did that PR work translate to being a Capitol Hill communications director?
Whitlock: One of my focuses has been to use social media in a way that reflects Senator Hatch's personality, showing it through pictures and video. It allows people to see he has a great sense of humor, that he is a character.
Washington Examiner: What is a day in the life of a Capitol Hill communications director like?
Whitlock: I wake up around 6 o'clock, check the news alerts and our social media and then the day's news. It is really a 24-hour job, which I enjoy. You can be successful in politics without being a true believer, but it is so much easier if you are one. I am a true believer in Senator Hatch. The downside is that sometimes I take things personally and that makes the job stressful, but, again, it is easier because I really believe in what out boss is trying to do. [Laughs] I drank the Kool-Aid.
Washington Examiner: Has your experience as a missionary in Japan ever paid off in your current job?
Whitlock: Senator Hatch invited me to join him when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on Capitol Hill, and I was able to speak to him briefly in his native language. It is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, so you don't want to lose it once you have it.
Washington Examiner: What is the thing about Capitol Hill that was the most different from what you expected?
Whitlock: Before I knew I wanted to be in Washington, I watched a lot of the "West Wing" TV series. People kept telling me that real life was not like that, that Washington was a lot more grimy than that. But I actually think D.C. is a lot like the "West Wing" if you are doing something that you believe in.
Washington Examiner: How long do you intend to stay on Capitol Hill?
Whitlock: I'll stay with Senator Hatch as long as he needs me. I've had other offers, but each time, the senator has said he needs me to be here.
Washington Examiner: Do you ever intend to go into politics yourself?
Whitlock: Not really. You see what happens to people who get into this. It has only become worse because of social media. We are at a point where we no longer give someone the benefit of the doubt. I cannot see myself ever getting into that. Right now, I enjoy being behind the scenes and seeing how the sausage is made.
Washington Examiner: So, you would go back into PR once your time with Senator Hatch is up?
Whitlock: I think so. My experiences have shown me how fulfilling it can be to help people to know the good works that they are doing.