Terrance W. Gainer spent most of March 4 with the Dalai Lama, guiding the spiritual leader around the Capitol in his capacity as the Senate sergeant-at-arms.
About a week later, Gainer escorted Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to St. Patrick’s Day festivities on the Hill.
Dignitary visits and the annual task of delivering the president to the dais for the State of the Union address are some of the most visible elements of Gainer’s largely behind-the-scenes job as the chamber’s chief law enforcement officer.
Gainer said most of his responsibilities during his seven years as SAA have been the “really back of the barn, back of the curtain type stuff,” that comes with running a $200-million organization with more than 800 employees. He makes sure the TV studios are broadcasting, handles computer and telecommunications support for the chamber’s massive IT system, maintains office equipment for all 100 senators and oversees Senate services, including the barber shops, the garage and the post office.
The “ultimate jack-of-all-trades,” is how Sen. Charles E. Schumer described the job, which falls under the New York Democrat’s jurisdiction as chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee.
A “substantial portion of the day,” Gainer estimates 10 percent to 20 percent of his time, is focused just on security issues. Everything from ricin scares to investigating claims of CIA spying on Intelligence Committee networks and outside cyberthreats.
“See how there’s been other compromises — in business, in government systems? We have not suffered that,” said Gainer, 66, reflecting on the legacy he will leave behind when he retires at the end of April. “Even when I look back over just the last year, we detected and prevented some 6,000 potential malware intrusions.”
The South Side Chicago native has spent more than a decade on Capitol Hill, beginning in 2002 when he took over as chief of the Capitol Police.
“Terry has been in a key position defending the Capitol and the people who live and work there since the 9/11 attacks,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, a fellow Illinoisan who counts Gainer and his wife, Irene, as close friends. “He’s been on the front line. . . . I can’t think of a more challenging time in recent memory.”
Gainer retired from Capitol Police in March of 2006, facing charges of nepotism for hiring his son-in-law, Darren Ohle, in the department in 2003. Gainer and Ohle said they were unaware of the 1967 anti-nepotism law.
Gainer emphasized to CQ Roll Call that the fault was entirely on his end and said Ohle is now a decorated officer with the Chicago Police Department, a position he’s held for the past five years.
At the time, Gainer thought he was done with Capitol Hill. He recalls being “awestruck” when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called a few months later to offer him the sergeant-at-arms post.
Gainer dialed then-Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle and “almost sheepishly” informed him he’d been chosen.
“Get your feet off my desk,” he joked with his former boss.
Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine, with whom who Gainer works to help secure the Senate wing of the Capitol, called Gainer an “iconic police leader whose innovation and vision will be remembered throughout the law enforcement community as a whole.”
Gainer started his law enforcement career with the Chicago Police Department in 1968. It seems he was almost pre-destined for the badge — at least one member of the Gainer family has served on the city’s police force for 107 years. The tradition continues to this day with his second cousin.
Gainer’s government career began about two decades later, with a stint as Illinois deputy inspector general. In 1991, Republican Gov. Jim Edgar appointed him director of the Illinois State Police.
Gainer left the Land of Lincoln for Washington, D.C., in 1998 to become second in command of the Metropolitan Police Department. His 2002 transition to the Capitol Police put him in charge of nearly 2,000 sworn officers who were increasingly focused on terrorism threats, including anthrax and ricin.
“Terry has made the security of the U.S. Capitol his life’s work,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who works closely with Gainer in his capacity as ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee. “Keeping the Capitol complex safe for the millions of Americans who visit it in the course of a year, as well as for the thousands who work here, is a tremendous responsibility, and Terry has a record he can be proud of. I’ve enjoyed working with him, and wish him the best in whatever the future has in store for him.”
Today the decorated Vietnam War veteran and retired Naval Reserve captain has his sights set on the private sector. He told CQ Roll Call that he’s been talking to “a couple of great corporations and businesses where I intend to do some senior consulting that will be a nice new challenge.”
During his 2006 hiatus from the Hill, Gainer assumed the top spot at Blue Falcon Solutions, and worked for MPRI, an L-3 communications company where he was responsible for a multi-million dollar law enforcement program supporting Army and Marine operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gainer said his next gig will likely have a heavy security component, and perhaps offer the chance to use some of his other skills managing IT, telecommunications and data-sharing.
He promises that he’s leaving the SAA in the capable hands of two of his underlings. The next Senate SAA will be Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms Drew Willison, whom Gainer says both staff and members are “very comfortable with.”
“I’m pretty excited about the next step,” he said, reflecting on his 47 years in public service. “[I] hope to contribute in a different way and see if I can build the Gainer coffers up.”