Officials Earn High Marks on the Hill

By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 9, 2005

In his first months on the job, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman has created a corporate-style structure to oversee day-to-day operations, depending on a group of Bush administration loyalists and experienced energy officials to oversee a department with more than 100,000 employees and a budget of $24 billion.

The group of upper-level appointees has been well received by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, who praise their management and openness. Several of Bodman's top staffers were heavily involved in pushing lawmakers to approve the energy bill -- one of the Bush administration's top priorities, which Congress approved last month and the president signed yesterday.

"While they certainly support very strongly the president's initiatives relating to energy, they are not big ideologues," said Bob Simon, Democratic staff director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "They are very interested and willing to work with both sides of the aisle on the Hill."

Bodman aides said the secretary starts the week with a Monday senior leadership meeting. More than 20 top department leaders discuss current issues in their areas, such as aspects of the energy bill, crafting the department budget and the status of presidential initiatives on hydrogen or nuclear power. The meetings last for about an hour; Bodman moves the location around the building periodically to add some variety, aides said.

The secretary sees the meetings as a way to learn what is going on within the department -- and to encourage communication among managers. "It's a great forum to let each other know what we're up to," said Eric Burgeson, Bodman's chief of staff.

Bodman holds daily morning meetings that last about half an hour with a smaller roster of top assistants: Burgeson; Clay Sell, the deputy secretary; and Anne Womack Kolton, director of public affairs. They discuss Bodman's schedule and what's in the news related to the department. It is here that Bodman typically asks for more information on pressing topics; in recent months, his requests have been dominated by legislative developments relating to the energy bill.

Here are sketches of the key players who make up Bodman's inner circle:

· Sell , 38, the deputy secretary, also serves as chief operating officer with responsibility for policy and program oversight. Before taking office in March, Sell worked as a special assistant to the president for legislative affairs. He promoted the White House legislative agenda in the Senate, focusing on energy, natural resources and budget. He also was a special assistant to the president for economic policy. In that job, he was Bush's main adviser on energy and natural resources issues and coordinated the development of administration energy policy. Sell, who has worked for Republicans on Capitol Hill, got his start with the administration working on the Bush-Cheney transition team dealing with energy issues.

· Burgeson , 33, assists Bodman with daily management and carrying out the secretary's policies. Before taking the job in April, he served as a special assistant to the president and associate director for presidential personnel at the White House. He was in the Energy Department under former secretary Spencer Abraham, working as a deputy chief of staff and senior policy adviser.

· Kolton , 29, is Bodman's top communications adviser and accompanies him on major trips. Kolton, hired in February, worked with Bodman at the Treasury Department, where she served as director of public affairs. Kolton has strong administration ties, having worked on both the 2000 and 2004 Bush campaigns. She joined the Bush administration in 2001 as an assistant press secretary at the White House.

· David K. Garman , 48, was confirmed as undersecretary in June and is responsible for energy science and environment programs. His portfolio includes research and development, environmental cleanup and radioactive waste management. An Energy Department official from Bush's first term in office, Garman served as assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. He has worked for several senators and Senate committees.

· Molly K. Williamson , 59, became senior foreign policy adviser in March. She previously worked as interim ambassador in Bahrain and served as a deputy assistant secretary of commerce, responsible for advancing trade relations with a number of countries. Williamson also served as a principal deputy assistant secretary of state, responsible for programs affecting various U.N. matters, and as deputy assistant secretary of defense, working on foreign policy issues in the Middle East.

· Linton F. Brooks , 66, is administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, a job he began on an acting basis in 2002 before being confirmed to the post in 2003. He oversees an agency that handles the Energy Department's nuclear security responsibilities. Brooks had previously worked in several other government jobs dealing with nuclear weapons and national security.

· Jill Sigal , 44, is assistant secretary of energy for congressional and intergovernmental affairs. Before assuming the post on an acting basis in 2005, Sigal held other positions in the department, including deputy assistant secretary for environment and science and principal deputy assistant secretary.

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