Power Players in DC's Health Policy Game

Laura Zeilinger, Brent Del Monte and Kristine Blackwood are profiled.


Laura Zeilinger

D.C. Department of Human Services

Laura Zeilinger is the director of the Department of Human Services for Washington D.C.

Laura Zeilinger is the director of the Department of Human Services for Washington D.C. (Chet Susslin)Until the beginning of the year, Laura Zeilinger had a high-profile gig as executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, coordinating the national response to homelessness across 19 federal departments and agencies as well as state and local entities. But when she left that post to become director of the District of Columbia's Department of Human Services—where she'd previously served as deputy director for program operations—she was excited to get back to working locally. "There's a lot you can advance much more quickly," she says. The 42-year-old Cleveland, Ohio, native now oversees the 973-person agency, which is charged with helping low-income residents achieve economic security. Welfare programs, food benefits, and child-care assistance all fall under her purview, but addressing chronic homelessness remains one of her main goals. "Homelessness is very solvable," Zeilinger tells me. "It's not something we need to accept."


Brent Del Monte

BGR Government Affairs

Brent Del Monte is a senior vice president for BGR Government Affairs LLC. (Chet Susslin)I was content," Brent Del Monte says of his previous job at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, where he served for a decade as the trade association's lead federal lobbyist. But when BGR Government Affairs invited him to come work for its health practice, he decided to switch gears. In his new job as a senior vice president, which he started June 1, Del Monte will spend less time on management and more time on the Hill and providing "strategic advice and counsel" to clients, primarily in the life-sciences field. The 48-year-old from Sterling, Virginia, comes to consulting by way of the Hill, where he held a variety of positions focused on health care. Most recently, he served as counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, specializing in food and drug policy issues.


Kristine Blackwood

Squire Patton Boggs

Kristine Blackwood is a partner in the healthcare public policy practice at Squire Patton Boggs. (Chet Susslin)As deputy director for oversight and investigations at the Health and Human Services Department, Kristine Blackwood spent five years coordinating government responses to everything from Obamacare's rocky implementation to the Ebola outbreak. Asked about the size of that job, she responds with humor: "Thank God I didn't do it by myself." On June 15, Blackwood became a partner in the health care public policy practice of Squire Patton Boggs, the international law firm where she's now using her expertise to help private-sector clients. "There's a fair amount of uncertainly still about the direction that the Affordable Care Act will take in terms of implementation," the Arlington, Massachusetts, native tells me, "so this is really a prime time to be in a position to help the firm's health care clients interpret what's going on in Washington, D.C." Blackwood got her start as a health care fraud prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, but over time, she says, "I found the overlying policy issues to be as compelling as the individual litigation matters."