Political appointees who have driven important policy and program changes during the past months should be counted among the Americans—including front-line workers, first responders, military personnel, and others—who have worked tirelessly and put themselves at risk for the benefit of others during a national health crisis.
And they too deserve recognition, says outgoing Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Brian Montgomery via an op-ed in Government Executive magazine, which he penned just prior to exiting his post on January 20.
"As our government has responded to the crisis, a smaller subset of people have worked tirelessly behind the scenes ... A number of these individuals will soon lose their jobs with the change in presidential administrations, and I believe it fitting and proper they receive some recognition," Montgomery wrote. "I'm speaking of my fellow Cabinet and independent agency political appointees who worked alongside tens of thousands of talented and dedicated career staff who similarly deserve our gratitude."
Montgomery acknowledges partisan struggles that might have made their jobs even more difficult.
"Some have been ridiculed and even threatened for simply being appointed by President Trump. Yet through it all remained on the job—steadfast and resolute in their duty–most working every day from their headquarters or field offices, not remotely or from home, and all dedicated to making our government of, by, and for the people function, for all the right reasons," he noted.
- The Health and Human Services Department, for example, worked overtime to push out $178 billion in CARES Act Provider Relief Funds to hospitals and other health care providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 effort, he pointed out.
- The Small Business Administration and Treasury staffers worked to deploy the Paycheck Protection Program and are working overtime to deploy round two.
- HUD, he notes, worked countless days to help the more than 1 million Federal Housing Administration households who requested mortgage forbearance or needed a foreclosure moratorium to remain in their homes. More HUD personnel helped to ensure property owners and HUD-subsidized households had needed funding and information ... still others helped deliver $9 billion in grants to suffering cities, states, and tribal nations.
"Examples of their professionalism and hard work abound and resist any partisan label," Montgomery noted.
He goes on to address incoming political appointees at various domestic-policy agencies.
"You will soon have time to dig in, work with dedicated career professionals, and begin to address many of the same issues we have been facing for months. You will have an opportunity to examine first-hand why the previous team did what they did," he wrote. "I am hopeful that when you do, you will understand the magnitude of the effort put forth, of the workload that grew exponentially during the pandemic, and of the tools employed to do our duty effectively and efficiently."
He calls on members of both the outgoing and incoming administrations to "recognize and appreciate what it means to serve the public, regardless of party affiliation."
"While our policy differences remain," he concluded, "I wish our new team of public servants the best and hope we can tip our hats to those who are on the way out."