At 26, Ashley Patterson was recently named one of Washington's "50 Most Beautiful People" by The Hill magazine ¶ Flash back to 2001, when Patterson, then a junior at Admiral Farragut Academy, was crowned Junior Sungoddess in the Festival of States scholarship program. ¶ Patterson is diplomatic about her continued accolades for brains and beauty, politely insisting she'd rather focus on the former. The Hill pointed out that the Treasure Island native is a fierce multitasker enamored of Washington's political culture. For fun, she devours historical fiction while strolling along the Potomac River.
After working as a White House reporter for Belo Corp., Patterson was a spokeswoman for Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas. Now she has put that job and master's degree studies in counterterrorism at National Defense University on hold to take a job as a spokeswoman for Ameresco, a green energy firm. ¶ We chatted with her during a recent visit home.
What do you think about being placed among the capital's "most beautiful"?
I think it's a good opportunity to shine some light on individuals in Washington who are trying to make a difference. There's so much young talent in Washington. … I view it as a positive, but it's much less about "beautiful" and much more about sharing my story.
How did Admiral Farragut shape you?
I started the seventh grade there as a boarding student. I was very active. My senior year I was battalion commander. That was something I worked at really hard. … The school motto is "success is never accidental," and it's really true. When you go to a school like that you learn that when an opportunity is in front of you, pursue it. You also learn, fundamentally, the difference between right and wrong. I credit that with a lot of what I've done since graduating in 2002.
I was the first young woman to do (the Sungoddess pageant) who was from Admiral Farragut. The school had only turned coed five or six years before. As a Sungoddess, you're really like a young ambassador for the city. I really used that as a way to open doors for me in the community and establish some relationships.
I was a state Senate page for Jim Sebesta. I always kind of had the political bug in me. I was involved in Girls State (a mock Legislature program of the American Legion Auxiliary) while a junior in high school. I wanted to be the lobbyist just because it was something I didn't know a lot about. It's really funny because now in Washington I've gone from being the news producer, the reporter, the (congressional aide), and now I am going into public relations for a green energy company.
Your father and grandfather are veterans. How did they influence your choices?
I have an outstanding mother, too. My family has always been my support system. My grandfather was in the 101st Airborne (Army), and he jumped on D-Day. He was a paratrooper. He was definitely an inspiration to me. … My father's service inspired me, too. He was 17 when he went off to serve the country as a Marine in Vietnam. My mother was a political science major in college back in the '60s.
It sounds like you're headed for public service.
You think so? (Laughs). I don't think you can rule anything out. You know, I wouldn't have left the government sector for anything. But going into the clean energy field I think is pretty unique. We'll see what the future holds.
How does home look now that you've come back for a visit?
Even though I live in Washington, I intend to always keep roots here in Tampa Bay. I still enjoy coming home to the house I grew up in since the sixth grade. … The one thing I don't want to see change is the charm of St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay. That's the one best part of growing up here. I was in Girl Scouts. I was in summer camp. I would go to the beaches on the weekend. That's what I don't want to see change.
Reach Luis Perez at (727) 892-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.