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Gainer, 'Ultimate Jack-of-All-Trades,' Looks Ahead to Private Sector

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
After decades of Capitol Hill Service, Gainer will leave his post a Senate sergeant-at-arms this spring. His announced departure brought a flood of praise from lawmakers in both parties, with Sen. Charles E. Schumer calling him the “ultimate jack-of-all-trades.”

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.

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