Feds Talk: How do they feel about political appointments?

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The Partnership for Public Service this month proposed filling all of the federal government’s key management positions with senior career executives instead of political appointees.

Many federal workers agree with that proposal, according to a Federal Eye survey this week. Most of the respondents expressed concerns that political appointees lack the institutional knowledge needed to run their agencies.  


President Obama and White House Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, his nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, applaud outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak).

Stacey Fritz, who works with the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, Alaska, said the managers at her agency “do not all have much BLM experience.” She recommended that the government require those employees to work a certain number of years at an agency before helping to manage it.

Dan Mertz, a Mechanicsville, Va. resident working for the Farm Service Agency, said a high percentage of the top positions at his organization are filled by political appointees. He noted that the agency’s worker-morale scores ranked among the lowest in the federal government’s annual job-satisfaction survey.

“The correlation is no coincidence,” he  said.

MORE: Federal job satisfaction hits lowest level since 2010

Robert Black, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from Key Biscayne, Fla., said political appointments should be limited to Cabinet secretaries. He added that all other officials should be “career people of merit.”

Linda Charest, who works for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in D.C., had a more positive take on appointees. She said they are just as dedicated to her agency’s mission as other employees. “I wouldn’t convert any to non-appointed — keeps it fresh,” she said.

Similarly, NOAA employee Dan Winester, of Boulder, Colo., said he is content with the number of political appointees in the government but wants the Senate to establish a statutory three-month deadline for reaching a final confirmation vote.

Lawmakers have blocked nominees at an increasingly high rate during the past two administrations, but the Senate last year passed new rules to prevent filibusters that minority parties were using to halt the confirmation process.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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