“The problem with having a beer with Bill Livingood is he’ll never tell you the stories of all the presidents he used to protect,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said. “He still considers it a trust that he doesn’t want to violate. You’ll never get it out of the son of a gun.”
After Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, Gingrich sought a nonpartisan officer to staff the Sergeant-at-Arms Office. A headhunting firm tapped Livingood for an interview with Gingrich’s transition team: Reps. Jim Nussle (Iowa), John Linder (Ga.) and a young, two-term Ohio Congressman named John Boehner.
“They didn’t ask me any” political questions, Livingood told Roll Call in 1995. “Never ... I’m bipartisan. I’m not a Republican; I’m not a Democrat. I’m a professional law enforcement officer.”
Since then, Livingood has revamped the security operations of the House, transforming the Capitol Police from a patronage organization to a state-of-the-art police force — all, of course, through the lens of a Secret Service agent, emphasizing Member protection.
Renominating him in December, incoming Speaker Boehner lauded Livingood as “a disciplined and respected guardian of the U.S. Capitol and all who pass through these halls.”
Close to the Action
In his first-floor Capitol office, Livingood displays two reproductions of Old West paintings by Frederic Remington that he enjoys telling guests are symbolic of his job, said Scot Faulkner, a former House Chief Administrative Officer.
One is of cowboys guarding a watering hole. The other depicts cowboys turning back to retrieve a fallen comrade. Of the first, Livingood tells guests, “‘This is really the defense of a public official or a public entity. We are guarding this fount of life,’” Faulkner recalled. The second, he continued, means, “‘You leave no one behind.’”
“He’s really a person who has built tremendous loyalty in his own team,” Faulkner said. It’s not uncommon to find on his staff people who have been there for a decade.
Divorced and with no children of his own, he looks after his force as if they were his own family, colleagues have said. Others said he follows the creed of security with the dedication of a cleric.
“To some degree, what he’s doing is a vocation,” said Varey, who served as police chief during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “We never watched the clock. If there was a threat or a security issue, the issue was in our minds 24 hours a day. And we could never be happy until the issue was resolved.”
He travels with the Speaker, flying with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) just last term to Canada, Haiti, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Italy, England, Jordan, Afghanistan and Qatar, according to House travel records.
“I’ve seen him standing watch outside the door of the Speaker’s suite in a hotel and have said, ‘Bill, we’ve got youngsters who are supposed to do this,’” Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said. “But he enjoys it, he likes being close to the action and he leads by the example.”
It’s worth noting that Livingood’s approach to the press and media spotlight couldn’t be more opposite from Gainer, a former Capitol Police chief who is media-savvy and never one to shy away from reporters’ questions.
A Quiet Peacemaker