Utica (N.Y.) Observer-Dispatch

How and why a Utica native got a photo with every US senator

By H. Rose Schneider

A National Guard member and Utica native has gotten to see the ins and outs of Washington, D.C., while stationed in the nation's capitol earlier this year.

And he has the photos to prove it.

While stationed at the United States Capitol following the Jan. 6 riots there, Vincent Scalise, a New York National Guard member of 23 years, decided he would take a photo with each of the 100 United States senators.

Scalise, 48, is also the executive director and founder of the Utica Center for Development. He returned to Utica last week.

"To tell you the truth, it was kind of surreal to serve in our nation's Capitol, to protect it," he said. 
"This was the first time there was this many soldiers on the Capitol since the Civil War."

After President Joseph Biden's inauguration, Scalise was relocated to the Senate buildings, where he ran into Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, and asked to take a photo with her. Not long after that, the same thing happened with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, he said.

When Scalise told his operations officer about the encounter, he challenged him to get all of the senators' photos.

"It became more of like a morale thing for all the soldiers," he said. "The whole battalion kind of got behind me, to give me the motivation to do this."

It took a little over a month, often involving Scalise using his off-time to catch senators in the hallway on their way to vote, or going to their offices, he said.

"They're busy people, they're running all over the place," he explained.

After a certain point, Scalise wasn't sure if he would be able to complete the task. But, fortunately, he had help. Reporters at the Capitol pointed out senators he hadn't asked yet, and one reporter tweeted about the senators he still needed to reach.
On March 6, during the over-24-hour long voting process on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, Scalise received updates from Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA. Then, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-MS, began pulling senators aside between votes.

"Hearing them debate that bill, then coming out to talk with you," he said. "It was a great experience all around."

Around 1 a.m., Scalise took the last photo he needed with Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR.

Watching bills being debated and voted on, and communicating with those working at the Capitol, gave 
Scalise a better understanding and appreciation for the federal government, he said.

"Whether you agree with their politics or not, they’re all people like you or I," he added.