Boehner Names New Republican Reading Clerk

Posted June 12, 2007 at 6:41pm

Fresh out of college in the 1980s, Susan Cole drove an armored truck for Wells Fargo in Nashville, Tenn. She carried a shotgun.

On Tuesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) elevated her to one of Congress’ most visible roles when he announced she would become the new Republican House Reading Clerk.

“I look at it this way … you’ve come a long way, baby,” she laughs, noting that she also “hoed tobacco” growing up.

Cole, who works on the House floor as the Assistant Chief Clerk of Debates, will fill the vacancy left by the April retirement of longtime GOP Reading Clerk Paul Hays. Hays, known for his distinctive stentorian bass, often was referred to as the “voice of the House.”

“I would not consider me or my voice being the voice of the House,” Cole asserts. “I don’t intend to try to fill his shoes or … be Paul Hays.”

Cole was selected for the $90,619-a-year position from a group of five finalists. As part of the selection process, she even auditioned on the House floor.

“I had my one shot, and I wanted to hit a home run and I think I did well,” she says.

Before Cole debuts in her new role, about six to eight weeks of grooming will be required, said Clerk of the House Lorraine Miller. She added that an “outside consultant” would be brought in to help train Cole.

“We have to make sure she’ll be ready for prime time,” Miller said.

As one of two reading clerks (Mary Kevin Niland is the Democratic counterpart), Cole will be responsible for reciting everything that needs to be read out loud to the House, including bill titles, texts of amendments and presidential messages.

Prior to joining the Clerk’s Office in 2003, Cole, 44, spent nine years as chief reading and tally clerk for the House Financial Services Committee. She also has worked for the Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union and at the Federal Reserve Bank in Nashville. In 1986, she earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Austin Peay State University.

A self-described “little country girl from Tennessee,” Cole, who now lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband, Grant, and daughters Olivia and Amelia, will bring a slight Southern accent to the post. “Just wait till I come back from Tennessee in August,” she warns. Every time she returns from the Volunteer State, she says the reaction is: “Oh, you’ve been home.”

While a start date has yet to be determined, Cole already knows what she’ll do before uttering her first words to the chamber. “I’ll definitely say a little prayer before I go on the House floor that I don’t embarrass the family.”