‘Commuter Idle’ champion gets nod from Secretary of State

Paul D. Shinkman, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – The secretary of state took pause hours before leaving on a multi-nation tour of Africa Monday to recognize one of her employees who may have an even tougher travel schedule.

Brenda Wells, who won WTOP’s Commute Idle contest for the worst commute in the D.C. area, found herself in the George C. Marshall Reception Room on the cloistered seventh floor of the State Department’s main building Monday morning for a special recognition. The Diplomatic Security coordinator was joined by her parents and three young children, all residents of Sparrows Point, Md.

Though she knew the purpose of that meeting, Wells still seemed shocked and surprised when Secretary Hillary Clinton walked into the stateroom decorated with molded paneling, scrolled furniture and portraits of previous secretaries of State.

“Good morning, madame secretary,” said 9-year-old Daniel, dressed in a button-down and slacks, joined by his sisters Sophia, 7, and Anna, 3, and grandparents Charles and Brenda.

Clinton congratulated Wells on the dedication she demonstrates every day she wakes up at 3 a.m. to prepare for the five hours she will spend commuting.

That’s high praise from one of the most traveled secretaries of state. Clinton’s 13-day, 27,000-mile journey that ended July 17 clinched the record for most mileage, adding to the record she had set in June for most countries visited.

“You’re my idol,” Wells said to Clinton. “Working for you makes it all worthwhile.”

A staffer also presented Wells with a goodie bag of items to ease her commute, including puzzle books and a Kindle e-reader.

Clinton’s upcoming tour of Africa will include trips to Malawi, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.

Wells’ commute includes driving from her Sparrows Point home to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, taking a MARC Train to Metrorail, where she has to change lines, then walking a block to catch a bus to the office.

“I couldn’t believe this was the most powerful woman in the world,” Wells told WTOP after the meeting, “and here she is, making me feel like a neighbor.”

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow Paul, Kristi, and WTOP on Twitter.

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