New Leadership Heralds Changes for CAO

Strodel Is Expected to Work Across the Aisle

Posted July 16, 2010 at 5:24pm

Former Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard saw himself as a change agent in the House, once describing his role as a “creative manager” who challenges the “conventional ways of doing things.”

But on Sunday, Beard officially resigned after a three-year tenure marred by criticism that he was essentially changing too much, shunning some of the CAO’s traditional roles for newer projects such as the Green the Capitol Initiative. His position will be temporarily filled by Dan Strodel, a senior adviser on the House committee that oversees the CAO’s office.

A permanent replacement likely won’t be named until at least after the November elections, according to several sources. That leaves Strodel steering the office during a period of considerable change — namely the launch of a new electronic financial system — using Beard’s blueprint.

But Strodel differs from Beard in at least one significant way: He will inevitably work closely with Members and staffers, whereas Beard had a somewhat strained relationship with House offices.

In a statement, House Administration Chairman Robert Brady emphasized Strodel’s “strong connection to and appreciation for the people that make the House work.”

“Dan’s expertise extends to virtually every area of House operations and, during his career, he has been a highly regarded staffer in three of the House Officer organizations,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said. “He has senior management and leadership experience including human resources and financial management and has fostered strong positive relationships with Members and staff on both sides of the aisle.”

In recent months, staffers criticized Beard for a lack of communication on the myriad changes in his office. Some complained, for example, that the Office of Financial Counseling — which handles reimbursements for all House employees — was frequently changing which financial counselors handled which Member offices. In May, the criticism spread to both sides of the aisle, after Beard alienated some members of the Chiefs of Staff Association in a tension-filled meeting.

At the end of June, the House Inspector General released a report criticizing the office for low morale and miscommunication, specifically in the Payroll & Benefits Office and the Office of Financial Counseling.

The 57-page report found a high level of “anxiety and uncertainty” among CAO employees in those offices, leading House appropriators to threaten to withhold $20 million of the CAO’s fiscal 2011 budget unless Beard took certain steps. Instead, Beard resigned, citing a desire “to pursue other interests and spend more time with my grandkids.”

Interestingly, his replacement was once the director of the CAO’s Office of Personnel and Benefits, handling the payroll and benefits divisions cited in the IG report. Strodel was also the lead executive for financial and human capital management in the Office of the Clerk in 1999.

It’s unclear whether Strodel will use that expertise to make changes to the payroll and financial counseling divisions. But the offices are in the midst of preparing for a switchover to Atlas, an online system that will allow House offices to submit reimbursement vouchers electronically, among other things. Strodel will have to prepare simultaneously for the 112th Congress, which promises office changes, orientation classes and scores of new employees.

But unlike Beard, he will start out with Republican support. While GOP Members criticized Beard as a partisan choice, House Administration ranking member Dan Lungren said he welcomed Strodel and was “ready to work with him.”

“As we prepare to transition into the 112th Congress,” the California Republican said, “we must all work together to restore the integrity and functionality of the Office of the CAO.”