Mass. Official Picked to Head D.C. Jobs Agency

Mayor Fenty's summer jobs program was mishandled this year.
Mayor Fenty's summer jobs program was mishandled this year. (James M. Thresher - For The Washington Post)
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By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 2008

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty appointed a Massachusetts official yesterday as director of the District's troubled Department of Employment Services, the agency that mishandled the mayor's summer jobs program and overspent its budget by $30 million.

Joseph P. Walsh will leave his job as director of policy and planning for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development to take over the District's jobs agency.

Walsh, 42, will begin Dec. 1 and will be paid $160,000 a year. He replaces Summer Spencer, who earned $137,000 annually until she resigned under pressure in August. Tene Dolphin, Fenty's former chief of staff, who has been running the office since Spencer's departure, will remain there for the time being to help Walsh with the transition, mayoral aides said.

The employment agency's mishandling of the summer jobs program was the Fenty administration's biggest embarrassment in his nearly two years in office. Fenty (D) had ordered Spencer to open the summer jobs program to all students, but the agency was overwhelmed by more than 20,000 participants.

Employment officials lost track of where the students were working and how many hours they worked, granted more than $10 million in contracts to private vendors willing to hire the students and ultimately paid all students the maximum salaries.

"We want to take a look at the system and fix it," Walsh said.

Walsh, who worked with Boston on its summer jobs program, said he had a long discussion with City Administrator Dan Tangherlini about ways to develop public-sector jobs for youths during a challenging economic period. Tangherlini has talked about organizing a "green team," run by the Department of the Environment, in which students would be assigned to clean public parks and paint buildings.

"We are interested in finding ways to give people more public employment opportunities in which they have a good experience and which benefit the community directly," Walsh said.

Walsh worked in the Clinton White House as education director of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships in the 1990s. He has a master's degree from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Walsh spent four years as the director of planning, community and economic development in Salem, Mass., then worked in the private sector as a public policy and government and media strategy consultant. He also has held top-level positions in the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment and oversaw the communications staff at the state workforce agency, a skill that could come in handy at a D.C. agency that received plenty of negative media coverage over the summer.

Suzanne L. Bump, the Massachusetts secretary of labor and workforce development, said Walsh helped produce strategies for state agencies to carry out the agenda of Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D).

Tangherlini said Walsh came to his attention during a national search and was recommended by D.C. officials who knew him.

"He has varied experiences, which speaks to his ability to cover the waterfront," Tangherlini said. "He's got good ideas about what should happen operationally, and policy and planning is a very important skill set: Which way is the agency going? What gets you there?"

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