Profile in Leadership: Krista Ritacco


From the White House to Wheels on the Bus

Most people have a dream job, but few are afforded the opportunity to achieve their top two dream jobs. Krista Ritacco is one of these rare people.

Motivated by the desire to change the world for the better, Krista, fresh out of college, got in her car in California and drove across country to Washington, DC looking for a career in politics.

Without a place to live or work, thousands of miles away from her family, Krista embarked on a journey that would take her from being a Congressional Intern to Director of the White House Counselor’s Office and eventually Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

She had wanted to help shape American policy from the inside out, but that’s a pretty competitive arena when you are dealing with some of the most ambitious people on the planet.

Eventually, Krista enjoyed a prime position in the White House, the center of American power. She served a variety of positions over the course of her six years in President George W. Bush’s Administration, eventually rising to become one of the top aides to Karen Hughes, Counselor and trusted advisor to the President and later Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Just 29 years old, with an office in the West Wing, her future was as bright as anyone’s in the Beltway. She had worked her entire life to get there, and her future was limitless.

“I had always wanted to work in the White House,” she says. “It was a dream come true.”

But despite her professional success, there was still something missing in her life.

Perspective from Tragedy

Krista was in the West Wing of the White House, steps away from the Oval Office, on the morning of September 11, 2001, and was hastily evacuated along with the rest of the staff. Like many Americans, she felt moved to reconsider her life and her priorities within. That’s when her journey towards motherhood began.

“It was on 9/11 that I realized that life is too short,” she says. “I had postponed having kids, but it was on that fateful day I knew that I didn’t want to postpone it any longer. Little did I know that it was just the beginning of a long, five year odyssey of medical treatments before God finally blessed us with our first child. ”

“While I loved my government career and serving the American people, once I became a mother, for me, I had achieved my other dream job. One that has provided even more excitement and discovery than I had experienced in politics.”

Plus, Krista now had the best job title of all – “Mom.”

After having risen to incredible heights at such a young age, Krista was willing to leave it all behind, cold turkey, to devote her efforts to the most important job of all: being a mother. Her relationship with Hughes helped her realize she was making the right decision.

“Everyone in DC is so career-oriented, it’s like a giant hamster wheel. Then there’s Karen, who would send people home early so they could watch their kids’ soccer games.”

Hughes herself would later resign from Bush’s Administration to spend more time as a mother.

Life on the Slower Side of the Beltway

Krista is still a happy stay at home mom to her two boys, and has no regrets.

“My baby was napping, and I heard Marine One (the presidential helicopter) thundering overhead, and my first thought was, ‘How inconsiderate! Don’t they know my baby is napping!’”

“That’s when I knew I had changed.”

These days she spends her time like most other stay at home moms: getting the kids ready in the morning, helping with homework, volunteering at her kids’ school, making sure everyone is at the right practice. To the outsider, it seems like the opposite of the chaos and intensity of working in the West Wing. As every mother understands though, the home has its own insanity and pressures (not to mention its own little dictators.)

Outside of rearing her young family, she’s still making a positive impact on those around her. She’s been able to get involved with a number of non-profits, including the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University, Chautauqua Women’s Club and her church. Mostly though, she’s content to soak in each day with her husband and boys, and leave the hubbub and rat race to everyone else in DC.

Every once in a while she gets an itch though, but it doesn’t take her long to move on.

“I’ll never say never to going back,” she says. “It’s like high school, though. It’s great when you’re in it, but you can’t go back years later.”

Familiar with American Mothers during her time in the White House, Krista was honored as the 2013 Young Mother of the Year for Washington DC. She’s also joined our board as the director of public relations, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have her.

“American Mothers is a unique group, with moms of all types coming together to celebrate the one thing we all have in common: motherhood. It’s amazing to be able to celebrate mothers on a national level.”

You don’t have to be a former political high roller to be a great mother, and you definitely don’t have to be one to join American Mothers. Click here to learn more about how you help celebrate motherhood, and connect with other moms in your area.