Wednesday, May 19, 2010 is a date that will make the history books. Like when the apple fell on Sir Isaac Newton’s head, the Rosetta Stone was discovered, when Stanley found Livingston or when Saran Wrap was patented.
In other words a red-letter day in history because…
On that date your modest-but-also-fit and fearless Washington-based federal reporter ventured beyond I-495, into the wilds of Maryland, Virginia and then into West Virginia itself. I found abundant, intelligent human life. People who look very much like us. Speak our language and who took me to their acting leader, who turned out to be Capt. Mike Ryan. Of the U.S. Coast Guard. In West Virginia.
Lewis and Clark had Sacagawea. My guide was Peggy Sandretzky. She works for the National Park Service and knows the trails around the National Conservation Training Center like the back of her hand. The Center is a popular site where many federal and military agencies send their best to become even better. It’s very close to Shepherdstown, WV and right on the Potomac. Wow!!
Like many courageous/famous-yet-modest explorers, I arrived on a significant date. The Eastern Panhandle Federal Executives Association of West Virginia was holding an awards ceremony. And this was a big deal. One IRS team was honored for, among other things, blocking bogus tax returns which, if paid out, would have cost us (you and me) $7.5 billion. The Martinsburg-based IRS Electronic Data Management Section team winners were Mark Everson, Bonnie Kelly, Elaine Fisher, Sharon Frame and Lindsay O’Bryhim.
Terry C. Smathers of the IRS won the mangers award; Coast Guard Lt. Craig Lawrance won the profession-technical award and Belinda Lewis and John Laub (also Coast Guard) shared the clerical-mechanical-trade award.
What was fascinating, and surprising to in-bred DC types like me, was how smart, nice and happy these people are. I ate the local food (it is called “pulled pork”) and got a lot of good vibes out of my one-day expedition. At no time did I feel threatened or hear “Dueling Banjos” playing.
These are people who are happy, and grateful, to be part of the federal family. They know they are doing important work and they like it. A surprising number – perhaps one-third, maybe more – have been with Uncle Sam for 30 or more years. Except for the commute (one guy said it took him six minutes to get to the office), they are very happy campers. And great ambassadors for government service.
Obviously I had a good time. I plan to tell friends and neighbors, who think all bureaucrats live in the Washington area and are over-paid, under-worked losers, about this lost tribe that I discovered. Apparently there are people like them in New York State, Kansas, Texas and in both North and South Dakota. There are a lot of them in DC too!
I don’t like to get ahead of myself but when my Journal about this trip is published I can see Hollywood jumping on it. My thought is that maybe Dennis Quaid or Pierce Brosnan (though I wish he was a little younger and better looking) should play me. It may turn out, when I meet the producers, they they may cast me as me. Who knows? I guess I’d do it.
I also hope to introduce “pulled pork” to some of D.C.’s fancier places. Maybe starting with The Palm or the Bombay Club where I am well known and much admired.
Thursday Morning Federal Newscast Among the headlines this morning in the Federal Newscast: No penalty for FPS misuse of credit cards, NIH readies ethics revisions, Bill changes definition of combat casualties, Gates conceded pay raise battle. For more, click here.