When you think of dedicated, smart federal workers, lots of people would single out folks who work for the CIA, NSA, or NASA (not just its rocket scientists) and some of the other usual suspects. And they would be right. Some of those jobs can also be dangerous.
But one place that might not be on the list, but maybe should be, is the Social Security Administration. SSA, like the U.S. Postal Service and the IRS, is literally on the front lines. Eventually, if we live long enough, all of us will deal with Social Security. Maybe one of its shopping center mall offices. Working for SSA can be rewarding — and sometimes dangerous. Some of its customers are desperate — and sometimes dangerous. And while it is an all-important place, many of us taxpayers take it for granted, especially if it works well for us. Or hate its rules, red-tape or errors — ours or theirs — that get in the way.
SSA got a new boss this week. He’s different in a number of ways. Including the fact that he worked with the Thrift Savings Plan and therefore knows a lot about the civil service and civil servants. On the day he was sworn in this week, he sent an email to all staff at SSA. While that is not unusual, what he said is refreshing. It is definitely not a hostile-takeover drain-the-swamp message to the troops. Or the public. Check it out:
This afternoon, I was sworn in as your Commissioner, and I am eager to get to work. In ways that many of us do not have the perspective to appreciate, running an agency for this long without confirmed leadership is quite difficult. Please join me in thanking Nancy Berryhill for her leadership, and I welcome her ongoing support.
Throughout the confirmation process, one consistent theme has been how fantastic SSA employees are. I can certainly use your help. Although I am just now beginning my briefings, I am aware that we face a number of challenges. I look forward to hearing your ideas about how best to improve public service and be supportive to you in that endeavor.
My plan is to get out and talk with as many of you as I can. I will also be meeting with SSA’s senior leaders, associations, and unions. Meanwhile, I thought you might want to know a little about me. I am a lifelong New Yorker, born and raised in New York City. My wife of 50 years, Denise, and I are blessed with two daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren. I am a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and I have worked in the private and public sector and with non-profit organizations. I am most proud of my nine years as the Chair of the Federal Thrift Investment Board, which administers the Thrift Savings Plan, working to improve service by modernizing it into what is today one of the most successful 401K plans in the nation.
My family and friends will tell you I have a sense of humor, but I take work seriously. Hard work is especially necessary when what we are doing matters to every American. As I mentioned, I have already heard how dedicated you are to SSA’s mission, and your dedication gives me great confidence about what we can achieve.
I am taking a little time to assess how the agency is doing, and you will hear more soon about my priorities and plans in the coming weeks.
Thank you for the warm welcome I have received thus far. I look forward to working with you.
Summer is back and that means a lot of us will be enjoying some ice cream pretty soon, if you haven’t already been of course. The average American consumes 5.5 gallons of ice cream per year, 44 pints! That may seem like a lot of ice cream, but not to the average New Zealander who consumes more than any other nation at 7.5 gallons per year. That’s a lot of brain freezes.