Updated: July 21, 5:45 p.m.
House Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Walt Edwards, who was a senior adviser to recently departed Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard, announced Wednesday that he plans to retire at the end of this month.
“It is with mixed emotions, but looking forward … to what the future may bring, I want to inform you all that I plan to retire from the CAO,” Edwards wrote in a staff memo obtained by Roll Call, titled “A new era.” “Beginning July 28 I will go on leave until my approved leave is exhausted.”
Edwards joined the House in 1999. In 2002, he became assistant CAO for assets, furnishing and logistics.
In June 2008, Beard appointed Edwards to replace then-Deputy CAO Helene Flanagan, who was reassigned to organize the transition of Members for the 111th Congress.
In the memo, Edwards said he has fulfilled his mission to “improve the work environment for all employees, and bring organizational cohesiveness and cordiality among those for whom I was directly responsible.” He added that he is “ready to move on to new endeavors.”
His retirement comes right after that of Beard, who officially resigned Sunday after a three-year tenure marred by criticism that he was essentially changing too much and shunning some of the CAO’s traditional roles.
Edwards’ retirement may signal the start of an exodus of staffers who were close to Beard, sources close to the office say.
In recent months, staffers had criticized Beard for a lack of communication on the myriad changes in his office.
In May, the criticism spread to both sides of the aisle, after Beard alienated some members of the Chiefs of Staff Association in a tension-filled meeting.
At the end of June, the House Inspector General released a report criticizing the office for low morale and miscommunication, specifically in the Payroll & Benefits Office and the Office of Financial Counseling.
The 57-page report found a high level of “anxiety and uncertainty” among CAO employees in those offices, leading House appropriators to threaten to withhold $20 million of the CAO’s fiscal 2011 budget unless Beard took certain steps. Instead, Beard resigned, citing a desire “to pursue other interests and spend more time with my grandkids.”
The report also didn’t spare Beard’s deputies. It stated that one of the two deputies was involved in reassigning staff from Payroll & Benefits even though staffers didn’t see a “functional link between P&B and the Deputy who was involved in reassigning staff.”
The department is under Deputy CAO Ali Qureshi’s jurisdiction.
“Some felt that unprofessional and coercive tactics were used by various levels of management leading up to, and in some cases, subsequent to the moves,” the report said. “These actions have intimidated the staff.”
Beard’s position will be temporarily filled by Dan Strodel, a senior adviser on the House committee that oversees the CAO’s office.
No replacement for Edwards has been announced yet.