Tom Etten (pictured at right) wants you to know this: His office door is a gateway, not a gate.
"The government relations office is not there to find a way to keep you out of the state capital or Washington, but to support what you want to accomplish," says Etten, who will take on the newly established position of executive director of government relations for the Johns Hopkins Institutions on March 1.
Too often, Etten fears, faculty and administrators who have not worked closely with a university's lobbyists view them with suspicion, worried, perhaps, that they have a closed, preconceived idea of the institution's agenda.
"I view the lobbying function as a service office for the faculty, the deans and the senior administration of the university," Etten said. "We try to help the faculty, deans and administrators carry their message both to the state capital and into Washington. I hope Hopkins faculty and deans will find us anxious to help them achieve their goals and accomplish what is important to them and to the university." Etten brings to Hopkins 13 years of experience in university government relations, first as director of legislative affairs at Penn State and, since 1992, as director of federal relations at the University of Minnesota. There, he worked closely with William R. Brody, then provost of Minnesota's Academic Health Center and now Hopkins president, on such issues as health research funding and graduate medical education.
"I have a lot of respect for Dr. Brody and for what he did [at Minnesota] and the job he's doing at Johns Hopkins," Etten said.
Before he was hired at Penn State, Etten spent nine years on the staff of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
"Tom has a tremendous depth of experience and a terrific set of relationships, both in Washington and in the university community," Brody said. "He's a wonderful guy, and he will be a great asset to Johns Hopkins."
At Hopkins, Etten will be the first head of a new consolidated government affairs office. Previously, the university's federal relations associate, Maggie McIntosh; state and local affairs director, Annie Kronk; and city and community relations director, Janet Sanfilippo, all have reported to different offices in the university. Janie Stanek, director of government relations for Johns Hopkins Medicine, reported within that organization. Now, all will work directly with Etten, who reports directly to Brody. Etten will also work closely with Edward D. Miller Jr., dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
"It's important to have a coordinated effort," Etten said, "to share information, to know what each other is doing and be able to collaborate and cooperate. ... A lot of state issues and federal issues have become intertwined with each other, particularly in the last decade, and what goes on in Washington has a lot of impact on what state legislatures are considering."
When Etten arrives, the Maryland General Assembly will be about two-thirds through its annual 90-day session.
"My role will be to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can, about what the relationship is between Hopkins and Annapolis," he said. "Fortunately, Hopkins is already represented there by two very competent lobbyists [Kronk and Stanek]."
Etten already knows most of the key players and issues in the federal arena, but will work immediately to get to know the Maryland congressional delegation and the specific federal issues affecting Hopkins.
The new government relations office is in Abel Wolman House at 3213 N. Charles St. at Homewood.