Staffer Masks Diamond Ring in Dinner Mints

Love must be in the air in the Cannon Building office of Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colo.). Three staffers have gotten engaged in the past year, one last month, making the subject of wedding plans a hot topic by the water cooler.

Two years after meeting at a bar through mutual friends, Schaffer’s legislative assistant, Aaron Johnson, 24, decided it was time to propose to Laura Hauck, 23.

“I had told him I kind of wanted to get engaged before two years went by,” said Hauck, a Wilmington, Del., native who works for Settlement Planning Associates in Rosslyn, Va. “There were two weeks left before the two years were up, and the last week my parents were visiting,” Hauck said. “It was this past weekend or nothing.”

Even Johnson’s co-workers teased him about proposing.

“He was always talking about her and we were like, ‘Will you just shut up and ask her to marry you already?'” said Brandi Graham, Schaffer’s chief of staff.

Johnson, a Colorado native, invited Hauck to dinner at his apartment, and she was surprised to see what he had in store for her. “He set up a tent and hung up glow-in-the-dark stars,” Hauck said.

After dinner of fondue, s’mores and wine, Johnson pulled out a tin of dinner mints and offered her one.

“He told me the only thing that would top off the night would be a dinner mint. I was exhausted and I really didn’t want one. I wanted to go home, but then he kept telling me how good they were and how much I would enjoy it,” Hauck said, laughing.

When she opened the tin, she saw the diamond ring. Then, he asked her to marry him.

Chief of Staff Graham, 29, also has a romantic tale to tell about her engagement to Shawn Pensoneau, 33, who works for the International Air Transport Association.

After five years of dating, Pensoneau took Graham to their favorite spot on North Carolina’s Outer Banks for her birthday on Aug. 10. He wanted to propose to her where two currents, warm and cold, come together. Thanks to their pets, it just didn’t work out that way.

“A guy that looked like Tony Soprano got out of his car when we were standing there and started asking about our dogs. The guy just wouldn’t leave him alone. Then all these fishermen pulled in and the dogs were going to get caught in their lines,” Graham said.

So, they left the perfect spot without a proposal. Pensoneau ended up proposing later that night on the beach, under the stars. Graham admits she doesn’t quite remember how it happened because she was too shocked.

They plan to marry next August in Colorado, when Congress is not in session.

“We know we’ve been working too long on the Hill when we plan our wedding by the congressional calendar,” Graham said.

Erika Lestelle, 24, a legislative assistant for Schaffer, and Heath Heikkila, 24, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, met while in college in Washington state. She was the president of the college Republican club, and he was visiting to speak on behalf of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

“Our first date was at a political convention,” Lestelle said.

He proposed to her at the Dumbarton Oaks gardens in Georgetown, surrounded by daffodils, her favorite flower.

“I knew it was coming because he brought a gym bag with us,” Lestelle said. “He pulled a bouquet of daffodils out of the bag and on one stem was a ring.”

They will also live by the congressional calendar, marrying after the November elections back in Washington state.