Prior to my accepting the post in late 2007, three candidates turned down offers to be the chief executive officer of visitor services and to open the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC). Despite the negative press for construction delays and cost overruns that began before the ground had been broken for the CVC, I accepted the post — knowing full well the position involved turning around what was a decidedly negative public opinion and navigating between the needs of the visiting public and the Members of Congress and their staff who wanted, and in many cases needed, special treatment from the CVC management and staff.
Recent articles focus on key challenges the CVC management team faced. These challenges resulted from bringing a largely new organization up to speed and in line with Congress’s and the visiting public’s expectations. Under my leadership, we were very successful in this regard. The Architect himself commended me for the successful launch of the CVC, stating, “[Ms. Rouse] has astutely educated Congressional staff on how to structure and operate a major visitor services operation. She led the change on the Capitol Visitor Center from a much criticized construction project to a lauded venue in Washington, D.C., with exceptional educational opportunities. … Terrie has deftly assimilated an entirely new organization into the [Office of Architect of the Capitol] AOC and has established effective working relationships with her peers.”
The articles refer to vague and anonymous allegations of low employee morale and a sense that management would retaliate against them if they did not comply with expectations. I note for the record that I have never been named as a manager who has engaged in unlawful retaliation in any informal complaint or civil action. These complaints likely arise from the merger of the former Capitol Guide Service (CGS), the former cadre of visitor’s guides that was previously housed under a different agency, into the AOC. Following this merger, the AOC adopted contemporary management, human resources, security and personnel standards and procedures against which many of the former CGS staff and managers bristled.
While I know of no specific complaints that I “retaliated” against any staff members, if there were staff or managers who did not comply with management directives and did not work toward our shared goals, of course corrective action would be taken. What else would the taxpayers whom we serve, and who provide our salary, expect? The alternative would be to permit staff to flout their supervisors and to frustrate our aim of providing the highest-quality visitor center experience possible. If merging the former CGS into the new organization and requiring them to comply with new standards and expectations was cause for upset, then that upset was well deserved.
The CVC’s 580,000 square-foot structure is now an essential part of the Capitol Building. That means security and other protocols must be agreed to and coordinated with the United States Capitol Police and other operational partners. Blaming CVC management for security procedures is misplaced.
It should not be forgotten in the hail of negative voices that under my leadership, the AOC brought on line an entity that to the public, and Congress, operates seamlessly and will welcome its 4 millionth visitor within days. The CVC has garnered acclaim from individuals around the world as a “must have experience” in the nation’s capital. It was my focused management style and vision that turned the CVC from a “boondoggle” to a successful and welcoming experience.
While I am no longer acting in the role of the CEO, I am currently working through the details of my continuing relationship with the AOC and considering opportunities for future turnaround and launch projects, both in the federal and private sector.