After a recent progress hearing on the Capitol Visitor Center, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) became the latest lawmaker to express disappointment that after offering the executive director post to three candidates, Congress still has not been able to hire someone to run the facility once it opens.
Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch who is leading an aggressive new push for House oversight of the behind-schedule project, said that “every passing day that goes by without an executive director we have more issues come up.”
Her comments followed those of Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, who earlier this year said candidates are turning down the job because there is a “lack of organizational structure of who they would report to, who they would be held accountable by.”
And although CVC spokesman Tom Fontana last week would only say that “the House and Senate continue to work toward a governance resolution for the CVC,” one House overseer said a resolution is close to being finalized.
It seems the biggest roadblock in working out the governance structure has been a difference in opinion between House and Senate leadership officials. Namely, House officials have less confidence that the Architect of the Capitol’s office — which has overseen the construction of the CVC — can handle the responsibility of having the facility’s day-to-day management responsibilities become another branch within the AOC. According to the overseer, House officials have seen “some proven significant deficiencies with the AOC,” which have made Members want the executive director to report directly to Congress outside of the AOC bureaucracy. Senate officials have “more confidence” in the AOC’s ability to handle the job, the overseer said.
In more immediate CVC management news, the AOC recently announced who would take over for retiring Project Executive Bob Hixon during the final phases of construction.
Hixon, who became former Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman’s right-hand man on the project after he joined the AOC in 2004, is retiring at the end of the month (though some House overseers, including Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), have strongly encouraged acting Architect Stephen Ayers to find a way to keep Hixon on the site through completion or hire him back as a private contractor after he leaves).
The AOC has said Hixon will be replaced by the CVC’s project design manager, Doug Jacobs, who has worked under Hixon and has been with the CVC team since before Congress ceremonially broke ground on the project seven years ago.
Currently, Jacobs serves as the AOC’s principal liaison between Congressional offices, architectural firm RTKL Associates, the Capitol Police and other contractors.
According to Fontana, Jacobs’ “design expertise and comprehensive knowledge of the facility and its complex building systems qualifies him for the critical role, especially during these last several months of construction activity, of ensuring that all components of the project are completed in a timely manner.”