By Jackie Kucinich - 11/15/06 12:00 AM EST
Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer will succeed Senate Sergeant at Arms Bill Pickle as the top law enforcement official in the Senate, incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced yesterday.
Pickle, who has served in the position since March 2003, had nothing but kind words to say about the man who will replace him come January.
“Terry is one of my best friends and was one of the best police chiefs [Capitol Hill] has seen,” he said. “I think he got a raw deal here [initially] and it’s only fitting that he return.”
Pickle was one of Gainer’s most vocal supporters during the weeks after he retired amid charges of nepotism on March 3.
At an April Senate hearing, Pickle expressed his disappointment with Gainer’s departure, saying, “I just want to acknowledge on our part ... how much we will miss him.
“We often use the word leadership ... and we always say you know leadership when you see it. Well, when you see Terry Gainer you see leadership.”
He echoed these statements yesterday. “He is one of the smartest guys I know,” Pickle said. “He loves the institution and he loves the police department.”
Pickle said it would be “a seamless transition” for Gainer, whose four years as chief of the United States Capitol Police gives him an edge that most incoming sergeants at arms do not have.
House Sergeant at Arms Wilson Livingood agreed that Gainer’s knowledge of Capitol Hill would make him an asset.
“Terry brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the law enforcement field,” Livingood said. “As a member of the Police Board he will be a valued supporter of the USCP … He will provide continuity, knows the issues, and will not have a learning curve.”
Pickle said Gainer’s biggest challenge could be adjusting to the size of the operation and the diverse responsibility that the office entails.
“Terry is a quick learner, I don’t expect that to be a problem,” he said.
Pickle said he expected to be replaced after Democrats took over the Senate last week, explaining that although the position is elected by the Senate as a whole, the sergeant at arms tends to be the “majority leader’s guy.”
In addition to controlling security and safety enforcement in the Senate building and the Capitol, Gainer will also now be the chief manager for many of the Senate’s support systems.
As police chief he assisted in planning a presidential inauguration and providing security for orientations and swearing-in ceremonies. These events will now be part of his protocol responsibilities.
Gainer’s new duties will include escorting the president and visiting dignitaries to the Senate for official events, making arrangements for funerals of senators who die in office, helping plan inaugurations, and organizing the swearing-in and orientation programs for newly elected senators, according to the Senate website.
Members of the House Administration Committee criticized Gainer for his budget requests at the Capitol Police, but he will now have control over the largest budget and staff in the Senate.
Gainer served as police chief from 2002 until March 2006, when he retired after being made aware that he had violated a 1967 anti-nepotism law prohibiting the heads of federal agencies from hiring family members. Gainer’s son-in-law Darren Ohle was hired at the department in 2003.
Gainer and Ohle said they were unaware of the law. Gainer’s replacement, Police Chief Phillip Morse, was sworn in Nov. 6.
“On behalf of the United States Capitol Police, I congratulate Terry Gainer on his selection as Senate Sergeant at Arms,” Morse said. “I look forward to working with him and the other members of the Capitol Police Board as we continue to protect Congress and the Capitol Complex.”
Pickle was upbeat about his future, explaining that while he wasn’t sure what he was going to do, he was keeping all options open.
“I’m still not sure what I want to do when I grow up,” he joked. “The greatest career in the world is being a Secret Service agent,” he said, referring to his career before joining the Senate. “But it has just been wonderful … it’s been a great four years.”
Gainer could not be reached for comment.