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Program Feature: Stennis Fellows Cheryl L. Johnson & A. Brooke Bennett

This will be the first in a series of installments by the Stennis Center featuring and highlighting Senior Stennis Fellows and other Stennis program participants’ achievements. In this installment, intended for National Women’s History Month, the Stennis Center features Senior Stennis Fellows Cheryl L. Johnson (105th Congress) and A. Brooke Bennett (115th Congress).

Cheryl L. Johnson, the 36th Clerk of the House of Representatives, and Stennis Fellow from the 105th Congress, is a unique figure in American history. She was appointed as Clerk by both Democratic and Republican Speakers, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Cheryl’s exemplary character, impartiality, and competence were made apparent during key moments during her time as Clerk, including the January 6, 2021, joint session to count Electoral College votes and the January 2023 118th Congress Speaker race. She served as Clerk from February 2019 to June 2023.

Photo Credit: Bruce Guthrie:

In October 2023, Cheryl was bestowed the 2023 Freedom Award by the United States Capitol Historical Society. The U.S. Capitol Historical Society established its Freedom Award to pay homage to individuals who exhibit exemplary dedication to freedom, democracy, and representative government. Through their actions, recipients advance a greater public understanding of, and appreciation for, freedom as represented by Congress and the U.S. Capitol. Cheryl was presented this award in recognition of her extraordinary leadership and steadfast commitment to upholding and preserving the American democratic process.

In addition to her time as Clerk, Cheryl had an almost 20-year career working for the House, and a 10-year career working for the Smithsonian Institution. While working for the House, she served as the Chief Education and Investigative Counsel on Education and the Workforce, chief policy advisor and representative for the Committee, and Director and Counsel for the Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials. At the Smithsonian, Cheryl served as Director of the Smithsonian’s Office of Government Relations, where she helped build and foster the Smithsonian leadership’s strong relationships with Congress.

Brooke Bennett, the Chief of Staff for Rep. French Hill (R-AR) since 2015, and a Stennis Fellow from the 115th Congress, has spent her career striving to bring together people on Capitol Hill. For almost 20 years, she has devoted herself to creating connections among staff and facilitating professional development. Examples include establishing a mentorship program for female Republican senior staffers called “Window into Excellence,” a bipartisan Chief of Staff book club, and the first-of-its-kind email distribution list for all House Chiefs of Staff. She also co-runs a GOP Chief of Staff Breakfast Club.

Photo Credit: Representative French Hill’s office,

In July 2023, Brooke was honored with the 2023 Women’s Congressional Staff Foundation Leadership Impact Award. Annually, the Women’s Congressional Staff Foundation recognizes one member of Congress and two staffers from a Republican and Democrat office who demonstrate a mission of assisting women to succeed while working on Capitol Hill. In September 2023, she was named one of the “25 notable Hill staffers” who “make the Hill run” by The Hill newspaper.  These prestigious recognitions highlight Brooke’s strong commitment to providing advancement opportunities, leadership, and mentorship for women and others in Congress along with her exceptional and lasting contributions to Capitol Hill.

Prior to her time as Chief of Staff for Rep. Hill, Brooke served as Legislative Director to Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) and Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA) and as an Investigative Counsel on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee under the chairmanship of Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA). Before her Congressional career, Brooke earned a JD at the Tulane School of Law and an AB in Russian Civilization at Smith College and worked in corporate finance at Arthur Andersen in London, England.

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