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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sir, You're Not in the Navy Anymore

Funny thing about going from Vice Admiral to Congressman is that in Congress, your staff is only your yeomen for certain hours of the day; not all the time.

Someone didn't pass that on to Freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak, as he's seen thirteen staffers "jump ship" if you may.
Freshman Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired three-star Navy admiral, has fast developed a reputation for being a temperamental and demanding boss. Thirteen staffers have quit this year, say former aides citing public records.

Sestak’s reputation as a difficult manager, which hounded him in the Navy, has followed him to Congress. The Navy Times reported in 2005 that Sestak was relieved from his last post as deputy chief of Naval operations because of “poor command climate.”

Now, in running his congressional office, Sestak has imported a measure of military toughness; he is battling a “misguided” culture in Washington, said William Walsh, Sestak’s district director.

Aides are expected to work seven days a week, including holidays, often 14 hours each day, going for months without a day off. These are very long hours even by Capitol Hill standards.

After more than nine years on Capitol Hill and only six months as chief of staff, Brian Branton announced on Aug. 17 that he would be leaving Sestak to become vice president for congressional affairs at USA Funds, a nonprofit corporation that guarantees student loans. Sestak also has seen three press secretaries come and go.

In Sestak’s district office in Media, Pa., staffers are expected to work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., during the week and part of the day on Saturday. One aide manages the office on Sundays, Walsh said.

Some aides have also bristled at their boss’s temper. At a markup in the House Education and Labor Committee this year, Sestak dressed down a legislative assistant in a manner that got the attention of other lawmakers and aides.

But Sestak does not attribute staff resignations to problems of his own making. “Some had other opportunities, some were not the perfect fit,” he said when asked about the 13 departures, adding, “I have had wonderful people working for me. I have asked a lot of my staff.”
Staff changes occur all the time up on the Hill. Some get jobs on K Street that pay three times what their Hill job pays. Some get offers to work on campaigns and head there. But thirteen staffers in eight months?

That's a statement on management style.