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PLP 08 Profile: Brett Coffee
Name: Brett Coffee
Born: Chicago, IL
Current Digs: Burke, VA
Occupation: General Counsel and Vice President at CSCI/General Counsel at the SemperComm Foundation
Favorite part about the job: CSCI is a technology company, and there are so many challenges to working with one foot in technology and the other in the law that I find incredibly interesting. The people here are highly impressive, the technology we develop is cutting-edge, and the mission is critical. The SemperComm Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to supplying morale-boosting communications and entertainment equipment, software and services to small, overseas remote U.S. military bases. My work there is to ensure compliance with legal and ethical matters. Through that, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of celebrities who attend our annual Gala and negotiate with senior government officials. But the highlight is always meeting the marines, soldiers and airmen that make up our armed forces. Getting to know these men and women has truly been an honor and a privilege.
Your first job ever? Selling Christmas wreathes for the Boy Scouts. I was lucky, because we lived very close to our local downtown. After school each day, I would walk down to the real estate offices, and remind them how much more attractive their houses would be if they made it look festive with a holiday wreathe. It was a mutually beneficial relationship, and a very successful sales technique.
Favorite book? Republican Party Reptile by PJ O’Rourke, probably the funniest book ever written.
Favorite movie? Braveheart
Comfort food? Deep Dish Pizza
What's in your car CD player right now? Ocean’s 11 Soundtrack
Next journey? Other than Sorensen? When my wife finishes her MBA, we’ve talked about starting a family, and we’re looking forward to that as a great adventure. We both love to travel, so we’re trying to get to Brazil, Australia and China before kids come along. But no matter what happens, there will be journeys galore for the foreseeable future.
Favorite Virginia vacation spot? Lake Anna is one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever been. Parker and Cole (our spoiled dogs) are incredibly happy chasing geese or sticks and exploring the shoreline. And it’s incredibly peaceful for the humans as well, a great place to decompress and reconnect with nature, family and loved ones. But we’re lucky in Virginia because the natural beauty and diversity of the environment is something that is hard to compare with any other place, and the historical sites and breadth of experiences you can have here make this a very special place to live in and explore.
First political memory? There were always stories about my grandfather’s political races when I was very young. But the first time I was aware of a campaign was 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected. Although my thoughts at the time weren’t on the malaise that the country was gripped in, even children could recognize the difference in strength and optimism that Governor Reagan brought to the race, and to the country as President. The local campaign headquarters was a block away, so I went down every few days to see if there was a new bumper sticker or button that I could get my hands on.
Whom do you admire and why? There have been so many people along the way that I have admired. Probably the most important couple in my life are my friends Jan and Merle Mulvaney. Our families have known each other for over 50 years, and they have been a constant source of inspiration and motivation since we now live just a few miles apart. Merle was an officer in the Army, and is a continuous reminder that service doesn’t have to be advertised. Jan holds a doctorate in education, and has been a teacher and administrator in Fairfax County and Fairfax City for many years. Jan encouraged me to participate in Leadership Fairfax, which lead to my participation in the Political Leaders Program, so her encouragement in shaping my path of service has been a cornerstone of my life. Their guidance has been very important to me, and their example of leadership, service and devotion has been incredibly inspirational. Their friendship is something I will always treasure, and the standards they have set for me will be something that will always challenge me.
Best advice you ever got? To leave home and see the world. My travels have been a constant source of education, friends and new experiences, many of which have changed how I look at the world and myself. Everyone would benefit from travelling cross-country by car, travel to where their ancestors lived, and experiencing a different pace of life.
If you could have dinner with any one currently living, whom would it be and why? Shelia Johnson would be a particularly fascinating dinner companion. She is a woman who has not only been in the middle of the transformation of race and gender in our country, but also had a front row seat to the changes in media and culture, sports and entertainment, entrepreneurship and politics. And she’s clearly not done yet! What a unique perspective she must have, and so many interesting stories and lessons as well.
Describe a perfect day. Wake up to a cup (or two) of coffee, while reading the papers on the back deck with the sun coming up. Before the day gets too far gone, head out for a bike ride with my wife and take the dogs out for a swim. Spend the afternoon reading some history or biography, instead of the catch-up business periodicals or policy papers that are usually everpresent. Then, have some friends over to grill and open a bottle of wine, and spend the evening talking with friends and my wife.
One thing most people might be surprised to learn about you? When I was younger, I spent time training for the Olympics in cycling. Some of the best riders in the sport came up through the ranks at the same time, so many of my fellow competitors did extremely well at the Olympics, Tour de France and other races around the world. My talent wasn’t quite that exceptional, though, and after attending an elite camp at the Olympic Training Center I figured I had better hit the books rather than try and make a living on two wheels. My wife and I rode a Century (100 miles) last fall though, and it’s something I still enjoy doing. It’s a great way to see the Virginia countryside.
Ambition, political or otherwise? Since politics has always been an interest, I’ve never really had any specific ambitions there. Becoming more involved with public service has been an outgrowth of meeting my wife, settling down and really focusing on the specific needs of my community. My ambition is to have a healthy and happy family, and my goals are to set an example for my own children and that they will live a life they can be proud of. To the extent that a strong community plays an important role for every family in our area, that drives my participation.