PEPPER PIKE — When Orange High School government teacher Jon Keller told student Tanya Somanader that she should work in politics, she said “over my dead body.” More than 16 years later, Ms. Somanader is one of 12 inductees into the Orange Hall of Fame for her work in political communications.
“I didn’t follow through on that threat,” she said with a chuckle. “I got involved in politics haphazardly. I didn’t have a plan for my career.”
Ms. Somanader, 34, did not have a career plan when she graduated, but found her way into a demanding yet lively career. With experience in digital content for the administration of former President Barack Obama and speechwriting for U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Ms. Somanader is now the chief content officer for Crooked Media, a start-up political media company.
After graduating from Orange High in 2003, Ms. Somanader attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island to study pre-medicine. After one boring math class, she quickly decided to find a different path, and considered law school. She took political science courses and chose international relations as her major. Ms. Somanader added a second major in history and said that she had one major that was “passable” to her parents and one that she chose for herself.
She took the LSAT but ultimately decided against attending law school, and took a job in Washington, D.C. in the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown as a staff assistant. Ms. Somanader said that she made a lot of “hard rights and U-turns” while finding her way.
“There’s no career path for this kind of stuff,” she said.
After working in Sen. Brown’s office for three years, Ms. Somanader said that she wanted to write. She said that writers have the skill set to change how people think.
Ms. Somanader was hired at ThinkProgress to write about hot topics in politics from a progressive perspective. Friends in Chicago watched her writing improve and asked Ms. Somanader to join the Obama campaign, so she packed her things and moved to Chicago to work as a digital writer in 2012. Working on the campaign made Ms. Somanader realize how much she enjoyed writing, and she decided to focus on speech writing, which led her to a position with Rep. Pelosi.
“I realized how powerful the product is for what you put on the internet, and I really enjoyed that,” she said.
After a year as Rep. Pelosi’s new media director and deputy speechwriter, Ms. Somanader took a position in the White House as the director of digital rapid response from 2014 to 2016. She interpreted policy, made engaging products to reach citizens and scheduled interviews with former President Obama. She noted one of the highlights of her career so far was working on communication and education for the Iran Nuclear Deal.
“It was a hard campaign because of our relationship with Iran, difficult and adversarial,” she said. “Our ability to come to a diplomatic resolution was a big deal.”
At the end of his term, Ms. Somanader called a friend, John Favreau, to ask for advice on where to go next. He invited her to Los Angeles to join his start-up, Crooked Media. Again, she said she would move to Los Angeles “over my dead body” but now serves as the chief content officer of the company.
Ms. Somanader works with a team that creates podcasts and runs digital campaigns. She said that they also make shows that dive deep into history and explore industries from a progressive angle.
“We use our network to help our listeners realize their power,” she said. “We make a difference in how news and politics happen.”
When reflecting back on her accomplishments, Ms. Somanader credits the Orange schools for teaching her how to write. She said that her teachers at Orange read her work thoroughly and talked with her about questions to make her the best writer that she could be.
In addition to Ms. Somanader, Marc Paruleker, a 1994 graduate, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame for his experience in music. He is the music coordinator for Pickerington Local Schools and his marching bands have performed at the Tournament of Roses Parade and the London New Year’s Day Parade. Andy Fishman ’80, the news director of WJW Channel 8 in Cleveland and winner of 19 Emmy awards, will also be inducted.
Six people will join Orange’s Athletic Hall of Fame, including twin brothers Kendall and Kyle Chones ’02. Both led the basketball team to an 18-5 record with a 12-0 conference mark in 2002, then both played basketball at Colgate University. Lisa Barna ’92 and her tennis partner Nikki Collier Pulver ’92 will be inducted, as they won the state tennis championship their senior year. Amanda Krantz ’91 will join the Hall of Fame, as she also won the state doubles tennis championship in 1990 and went on to play tennis at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Jack Andrish served as the team physician for the Orange schools from 1979-2015 and he will join the Hall of Fame.
Three educators will join Orange’s Staff Hall of Fame, as well. Nancy Baraga Domiano ’69 taught physical education at Brady Middle School for 38 years, Dennis Hansen taught biology for 24 years at Orange High School and Sallie Boyle taught kindergarten for 24 years at Moreland Hills Elementary School. The Hall of Fame luncheon and inductions are on Oct. 5.