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Berry Sails Through Confirmation Hearing

By Ed O'Keefe
John Berry
National Zoo director and OPM director nominee John Berry in a March 3, 2005 file photo. (Photo by Post)

The Obama administration's nominee to serve as director of the Office of Personnel Management easily handled the Senate confirmation process today before a hearing room packed with family, friends and colleagues. John Berry vowed that if confirmed, the federal government will become the nation's "model employer."

The OPM director serves as the human resources manager for the federal government's more than 2 million employees. Among many other tasks, it falls to the director to decide when to close federal government offices in the Washington, D.C. area due to inclement weather. Berry's expected to easily win Senate confirmation, thus a jovial atmosphere at today's hearing.

“I’d like the federal government to be the best employer, the model employer for the nation," Berry told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, adding later that "We need to put in place what works."

He noted that the federal government faces "a new reality" with shifting demographics and employment trends. "The youth of today may not envision staying with one employer for the entirety of their careers. We need to balance and mix flexible benefit approaches...with our existing more traditional, tenure-like model, to appeal to the broadest possible range of workers."

Among other things, Berry also promised an "open access" policy in his relations with federal workers unions, who have enthusiastically endorsed his nomination.

"People are looking to the federal government for strong, effective leadership fro the most senior officials to the front-line employees. Having the right talent in the right jobs is more important now than ever," said Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), who chaired the hearing.

“You’re going to have to spend the next few years shaping that place up,” Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) told Berry, urging him to address the federal government's hiring process, which the senator said is "in the dark ages."

“If you can get that stream-lined just think of the impact it’ll not only make on your agency but the impact it’ll have on the other federal agencies.”

“Every employee who has the benefit of his focus will believe that they have a true advocate, an able spokesman and a very caring person serving them and serving our government,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Berry’s behalf at the start of the hearing. Berry once served as the Maryland congressman's legislative director. The House majority leader, making a rare appearance on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, loudly joked with the nominee and their mutual friends and colleagues before the hearing began.

Berry, whose father served in the Marine Corps and mother worked for the U.S. Census Bureau, was joined by his brother and sister, their families and his partner, Curtis Yee. If confirmed, Berry would be the most senior gay official in the Obama administration.

After serving as Hoyer's legislative director, Berry was appointed deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for law enforcement at the Treasury Department and later served as the assistant secretary for policy, management and budget. Later at the Interior Department, he was director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, working with then-Inspector General Earl Devaney to address several financial and management issues.

Appointed director of the National Zoo in 2005, Berry implemented a strategic plan, a management reorganization, a 20 year capital master plan and secured funding for infrastructural improvements. Under his watch, the Northwest Washington zoo has also renovated the popular elephant house and seal and Sea Lion exhibits.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 26, 2009; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Confirmation Hearings, Congress  
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When I saw the headline I thought you were talking about Marion Berry. Well, after all, we're talking about the Obama vetting process...

Posted by: rjjrdq | March 27, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

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