OFFICE OF THE CLERK
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE COMPUTER SYSTEMS
In the 1990’s, in her early 20’s, Kirsten started her work in Capitol Hill as an intern for her North Dakota District’s Congress member. Here in DC, she found a lifelong calling to dedicate the entirety of her career to upholding the mission of the House of Representatives: democracy. After she completed her tour for her representative, Kirsten moved into a non-partisan role to make sure the gears of democracy in the House of Representatives continued to turn. Over the first two hundred years of our country’s history, the first branch of government hadn’t strayed far from the parchment and quill. This is where Kirsten has gone above and beyond, quietly, for decades, to usher our democracy into the information age.
Kirsten developed her own quiet and ambitious vision for the House of Representatives: a modern, seamless, paperless, and user-centric process that turns ideas into law. This vision carries a mission toward transparent and open access for citizens and legislators to have timely access to critical data for our country’s democratic processes. Over nearly 3 decades, Kirsten developed an invaluable and nonpartisan ability to build coalitions, acquire funding, and manage technical help desks to personally assist the Country’s most demanding clients-- all while striving to achieve the vision of a modern Congress on behalf of the American people.Perhaps even more importantly, she has worked to change the culture of the House of Representatives so that this new approach to lawmaking stretches the breadth of the entire Legislative branch.
As a technocrat in computer systems, Kirsten was early to seize the opportunity to dive into the world of computer systems, carving her critical role bringing innovation to Congress, as timely as she could. In the 1990s, she helped stand-up the XML working group, which laid the groundwork for cross-change collaboration on legislative standards that exists today. In addition, she is a key behind-the-scenes player in the Bulk Data
Task Force, which is responsible for the collection, management, and distribution of
SERVICE TO THE CITIZEN AWARD WINNER
Director, Analysis and Quality Assurance,
U.S. House of Representatives
critical legislative data for open and transparent use across congressional functions to the public, and civic society. This includes the data needed to run Congress.gov, Government Printing Office, GovInfo.gov, and internally to legislators and their staff via House Document Repository. Let’s pause to note how remarkable this is. The Bulk Data Task Force brings together journalists, civic hackers, attorneys, advocates, and the internal political and operational players in quarterly public meetings to figure out how to collaboratively modernize legislative information systems. In addition, for the past decade, Kirsten has shepherded the transformation of the legislative data itself (Bills, Laws, U.S. Code, and drafts) from paper and .pdf formats to machine readable XML and USLM. This led to the expansion of the way the public can research, track, and develop tools to better understand how legislation would affect them.
Kirsten is an essential player ensuring the continuity of Congress. The public might recognize some of the systems she has kept running in tumultuous times. Kirsten’s team keeps up the maintenance and protection of the electronic voting system and its data, used to count and archive official member votes on the floor for every piece of legislation (viewers of C-SPAN can thank that system for live and accurate vote counts.)
Recently, the House turned to Kirsten’s ability to quickly execute solutions to help replace antiquated House proceedings during the pandemic. Kirsten led the call to design an “e-Hopper,” which was created to replace the “Hopper,” a wooden box where bills for consideration on the floor were required to be physically dropped. Her creativity, love for country, and countless late night hours — while managing a toddler at home — helped ensure the continuity of House proceedings.
Finally, our latest endeavor with Kirsten is to bring it all together with the Comparative Print Project. Kirsten led the response to a House of Representatives rule to produce a comparative print software. The project aims to address the ‘Posey Rule,’ which called for the development of a report that would help members and their staff quickly see how a bill would affect current law. For indescribably complex reasons, this task required Kirsten to
lead the development of a natural language processor (NLP), or what is referred to as the “first use of AI in Congress.” With this task, she carried the vision to architect a platform for all types of useful innovations from the NLP, to include: bill to bill differences, how amendments change a bill, and how to read a bill in a more informed way. In addition, and to my absolute honor, she called for all of these innovations to be done in a human-centric way, using design thinking methods, in order to improve customer experience outcomes. In a time when many CX practitioners struggle to make the case for change, Kirsten embraced it to design technology in the most politically volatile environments and around the most complex public-facing data-sets in
All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the underlying availability of these critical texts to be in the correct XML/USLM format; an uphill fight she and other open government advocates have defended for a decade when others debated the utility of machine-readable text and raised every objection, reasonable and otherwise. When others struggle to defend long-term and esoteric return on their work, Kirsten continues to bring her most forward-thinking positive outlook, relaxed mid-western charm, and old-fashioned grit to every small and large detail she is asked to consider