Walter Hamilton won't get the day off on Inauguration Day. He may be the only federal civilian worker based within 25 or so miles of the White House -- except for those such as security personnel, weather forecasters, aircraft controllers and Pentagon employes -- who must be on the job that day.
It's because, so far as Metro Scene can determine, Hamilton is the only federal nonpostal employe who is based in Fairfax City. He is an Agriculture Department soil conservation specialist assigned to work with a tricounty Northern Virginia soil and water conservation agency that has its headquarters there.
My colleague, Mike Causey, reported the other day in his Federal Diary column that all federal employes within the Washington metropolitan area, as defined by a 1957 act of Congress, will get the day off on Jan. 21. The holiday is designed not so much to celebrate the presidential swearing-in as to clear traffic off Washington streets. That explains why an equal holiday isn't granted to feds in, say, Anchorage.
But, Causey reported, the holiday does not apply to federal workers whose jobs are based in Fairfax City because, under the terms of the law described as 5 U.S. Code 2105, it isn't in the metropolitan area, although the county that completely surrounds it is within the area.
The law may be, as Dickens' Mr. Bumble once said, "a ass, a idiot," but it's the law as it stands and as it's interpreted by James W. Morrison Jr. associate director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
According to Morrison's official memo on the subject, the law defines the D.C. area as "the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland, Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia, and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia."
As said previously, that was the case when the federal holiday law was passed by Congress in 1957. But in 1961, the town of Fairfax decided to reincorporate as a city. Under Virginia law, cities are independent of the counties in which they are geographically located. That removed Fairfax City from being within the definition of the metropolitan area for inaugural holiday purposes.
But there are no strictly federal offices in Fairfax City. Walter Hamilton is assigned there. But, according to Puller Hughes, executive director of the Soil and Water Conservation District that serves Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, Hamilton expects to be down in Prince William that day, doing his normal duty.