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Career moves in the nation's capital

'Trickle-down effect' of presidential picks
sets off a sea change in government jobs

January 17, 2001
Web posted at: 2:29 PM EST (1929 GMT)


In this story:

Moving out, moving in

Senate approval needed

President's stomach and security

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It's a tradition at the beginning of every presidential administration.

The nation's capital overflows with moving vans headed into and out of the city. While some federal employees who are not explicitly connected with an administration remain above the fray, many find themselves jerked to and fro by the whims of presidential politics.

That's certainly the case for Helen Langdon of the White House press office. Her job ends at noon January 20 -- the same time her boss, President Bill Clinton, officially relinquishes his post to President-elect George W. Bush.

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Presidential Transition

"I'm going to miss everyone I've come to known real well," Langdon says.

She came to the White House late in Clinton's second administration understanding that her job was temporary.

"It's part of American government," Langdon confides. "It's each administration's right to choose who works under them."

Moving out, moving in

Like many of her departing counterparts, Langdon doesn't plan to stray far from the political boiler room. She said she hopes to stay in the Washington area and is looking to cross the line, from working with the press to becoming a member of the media herself. "I would like to get a job in media but still work around politics," Langdon explained.

Kelly Pool has the opposite perspective of Langdon -- she's an outsider looking to move in. An employee with the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2001, she said she hopes to be hired in the new administration.

Kelly worked for the Bush team in Tallahassee, Florida, before hopping on the national campaign full time last year. She is planning to move to Washington with five other friends, all of whom are looking for jobs in the new administration.

"I want to do something like this while I'm still young," she said. "I want to work with people -- I love setting things up and seeing an event through."

Senate approval needed

"The president is only responsible for appointing only 200 to 300 positions," explained Maria Downs of the White House Historical Association. "It's a trickle-down effect: All of the other administration hiring is done by those appointees, and so on and so on."

Many federal employees in and around the White House won't be affected by the transition. "The butlers and ushers of the Executive Mansion are held over because they are civil-service workers," Downs said. The gardeners who manicure the White House grounds are safe, too, she explained, as employees of the National Park Service.

The highest profile presidential appointments are for Cabinet-level positions, including the opportunity to lead the labor, treasury, defense and state departments. As president-elect, Bush also has the power to nominate people to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency as well as ambassadorships in a slew of American embassies around the world.

In most every case, the president or president-elect has the right to nominate a person to a given position. But the individual won't officially assume that office until the U.S. Senate officially "confirms" him or her to that post.

Each nominee must attend a hearing of the Senate committee that relates to the particular post. Senators pose policy, ideology and, sometimes, personal questions to the nominee before voting whether he or she is fit for the post. Such committee hearings began last week, and they will continue until all positions are filled.

President's stomach and security

One post that doesn't need congressional approval is that of the White House cook. Given the importance of the president's diet -- and uniqueness of his particular tastes, the official head chef of the White House is an appointed position.

It's one thing to take care of a president's stomach, another to take care of his security. That important job belongs to the Secret Service, the agency that protects the chief executive.

Under the Treasury Department's control, the Secret Service is careful to separate politics from protection.

"The White House detail is a complete and separate detail," says Special Agent Tony Ball. "We guard the president no matter who it is."

Ball said one or two agents might go with an outgoing president, but for the most part the agents on the White House detail stay there and the outgoing leader receives a new detail.

It's a whirlwind of change between administrations. But as short-timer Langdon said, it's a process steeped in tradition and history.

"It's American government in action," Langdon said. "It's happened before, and it's going to happen again. I was privileged to play a small part."



RELATED STORIES:
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January 16, 2001
CIA director Tenet to stay on
January 16, 2001
Inaugural taste: Texas chef set to cook for Bush in Washington
January 15, 2001
Clinton's long goodbye
January 14, 2001
Charlie Brotman: Inaugural announcer
January 12, 2001

RELATED SITES:
Employment in the U.S. government
President's Cabinet
White House
Bush-Cheney transition
Presidential Inaugural Committee 2001

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