From one perspective, it appears Doyle C. Bartlett is right back where he started.
Nearly 10 years after he left Rep. Bill McCollum's staff to begin a career as a banking lobbyist, Mr. Bartlett is again at the side of the Florida Republican - this time as his chief of staff.
But for both men, things have changed in a big way. They are now rising stars. Rep. McCollum is a conservative veteran of the House with close ties to its leaders, and Mr. Bartlett is a well-respected lawyer who has had a hand in crafting major banking legislation.
By rejoining Rep. McCollum's staff, Mr. Bartlett also renewed a professional relationship that had a dramatic impact on his personal life.
His career in banking law started when Rep. McCollum transferred him in 1985 from Orlando to Washington to be his representative on the Banking Committee's staff. The congressman also introduced Mr. Bartlett to Leslie Woolley, a staff member who would eventually become his wife. Today, Ms. Woolley is a senior official at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Rep. McCollum said he's thrilled to have his longtime friend on his staff. "I think it's terrific," he said. "He's a very easy person for me to work with."
Like the role of his boss, Mr. Bartlett's duties have expanded well beyond banking. His first task after rejoining Rep. McCollum's team in the fall of 1994 was organizing his bid to become House majority whip. Though that effort failed, Rep. McCollum landed two plums from Republican leaders: chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee's crime subcommittee and a seat on the Republican Party's 1996 platform committee.
For both men, there is less time for banking.
"I try to keep my hands in banking, but I also devote a lot of time to the crime subcommittee," Mr. Bartlett said.
"It varies, depending on what is coming up. When banking issues come up, I dedicate the majority of my time to them. Right now, I'm spending most of my time planning and getting the agenda set for" this year's congressional session.
Though all of Mr. Bartlett's Washington experience has been in the banking arena, Rep. McCollum said his talents translate well to the broader responsibilities of a top staff member.
"He's developed a lot of skills," he said. "He's an attorney now and has a good network of contacts in the business community in general, not just banking. Doyle's also good at working with people and has good political instincts, which any chief of staff needs."
Despite the extra duties, though, banking will remain a major part of Mr. Bartlett's work load. Rep. McCollum is the highest-ranking Republican on the House Banking Committee after Chairman Jim Leach of Iowa.
Many bank lobbyists are speculating that Rep. Leach wants to head the International Relations Committee if the job comes open. That would leave the banking chairmanship to Rep. McCollum.
But no big change is expected soon. International relations Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman of New York plans to run for reelection, a spokesman said.
Mr. Bartlett is still looked to as a leader on banking issues. With the banking panel's staff bearing most of the burden of drafting legislation to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act and to rebuild the thrift insurance fund, he is credited with helping aides to the committee's 15 Republican freshmen get up to speed.
"The staff freshmen tend to look to Bartlett for guidance. Because Leach and his staffers were (controlling) so much legislation, Doyle had an opportunity to interact with other staffers," said Paul Clark, a banking lawyer at the Washington firm Seward & Kissel and a close friend of Mr. Bartlett.
Mr. Bartlett has held senior posts at a banking trade group as well as at the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., giving him a background rare for a lawmaker's personal aide.
After Republicans reduced committee staff sizes, Rep. McCollum was no longer eligible to appoint a representative, making Mr. Bartlett's experience and contacts all the more important. "By virtue of his knowledge in the banking world, I'm able to function well without a staff member on the banking committee," Rep. McCollum said. "He gives me a big advantage."
That experience has earned Mr. Bartlett the respect of his peers. As chief lobbyist for the Conference of State Bank Examiners from 1987 until 1994, Mr. Bartlett's chief mission was to protect the role of state regulators from eclipse by their federal counterparts.
Most recently, he had used his skill to protect states' powers as part of 1994's Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act.
Neil Osten, a lobbyist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, credits Mr. Bartlett for pushing Congress to give states until 1997 to decide whether to allow interstate branching.
"On Riegle-Neal, we spent a lot of time lobbying together," Mr. Osten said. "Doyle primarily spearheaded that effort. He had excellent entree to a lot of offices."
Mr. Osten also credited Mr. Bartlett with persuading the banking panel to oppose an administration plan to impose federal exam fees on state banks in 1993.
But Mr. Osten can't resist tweaking his former colleague about a proposal Rep. McCollum sponsored last year that would have eliminated state-chartered savings and loans as part of a larger effort to merge the bank and thrift charters. Rep. McCollum's suggestion was rejected in part because of an outcry from state officials.
"Doyle is a good teacher. I guess he taught us too well," Mr. Osten said.
Genuinely good-natured, Mr. Bartlett takes the ribbing well. But he insists that Rep. McCollum's proposal didn't signal any lack of support for the dual banking system.
"Bill's real view of the world is that we need to eliminate the thrift charter and it should all be done at once. The federal government should determine what kinds of institutions it will insure," he said. "If you believe, as the Fed has argued, that restrictions placed on the thrift charter make it inherently more risky, then it's just as risky to have state-chartered thrifts as federal."
As for pending legislation, Mr. Bartlett said he's sorry that Glass- Steagall repeal has become snagged in limits on bank insurance powers. "The bill has some real innovative concepts," he said.
One idea he especially likes: letting financial services firms erect minimal firewalls between banking and securities underwriting - as long as the company is willing to forgo federal deposit insurance.
But Mr. Bartlett doesn't expect any movement on Glass-Steagall repeal until the Supreme Court rules in an important insurance powers case pitting Barnett Banks Inc. against the state of Florida.
After years in the contentious world of bank industry lobbying, Mr. Bartlett's skills have already helped Rep. McCollum climb the Republican ranks. He isn't shy about taking some credit for the Republicans' capture of Congress in the 1994 election.
"During the year leading up to the election," he recalled, "we had Bill travel the country. He raised a substantial amount of money for other candidates - about $600,000."
Though Rep. McCollum lost out to Texas Republican Tom DeLay for the whip post, Mr. Bartlett said the effort was well worth it. "We got a great consolation prize. We have a Republican majority, and Bill was named chairman of the crime subcommittee."
Some banking lobbyists lament that Rep. McCollum wasn't selected whip, given the acrimony that has broken out between Republican hard-liners and the Clinton administration. Rep. McCollum has a track record of working well with Democrats without giving in.
That's a trait Mr. Bartlett picked up long ago, said Steve Verdier, a lobbyist for America's Community Bankers and a Democratic staff member of the House Banking Committee in the mid-1980s.
"Doyle was good on a bipartisan basis, which the Republicans had to be in those days," Mr. Verdier said. "He would stick to a position but was very pragmatic."
Mr. Bartlett wouldn't speculate on whether his boss would have been able to prevent the discord that has stalled the balanced budget talks.
"I believe McCollum is one of the more outstanding members in Congress," he said of his boss. "He would have brought some skills that would have been helpful. But whether things would have turned out differently is hard to say."
Despite the upward arc of their careers, Mr. Bartlett said, he longs for a life beyond Washington. But he has promised Rep. McCollum to stay through the 1996 election and probably through 1998.
"I intend to go to Oklahoma and practice law," Mr. Bartlett said. "Everybody has dreams. To become a country gentleman-lawyer-farmer is one of my mine."
Why Oklahoma? It may be the only place that could lure his wife away from the FDIC. She grew up in the Sooner state, where her family owns a ranch and her father is chairman of a small bank. "Leslie has a great job and loves it," Mr. Bartlett said. "It would be a real challenge for me to get her to leave."