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House Sergeant-at-Arms to Retire in January

Updated: 7:15 p.m.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood announced today that he will retire in January, bringing an end to a 17-year tenure.

According to a statement released by his office, the House’s chief law enforcement officer will step down before Jan. 17, the scheduled start of the second session of the 112th Congress.

The 36th person to serve in the post since the House first convened in 1789, he will have held the third-longest tenure by the end of the year. Before coming to Congress he was a member of the Secret Service for 33 years.

“It is with mixed emotions that I close this chapter of my life as I retire,” Livingood said. “I will treasure the countless friendships that I have developed over the years but I look forward to opening the next chapter and exploring new opportunities and challenges.”

Speaker John Boehner will be responsible for nominating a replacement for Livingood. The Ohio Republican said in a statement today that more information about his candidate will be announced “soon” and that a House floor vote to confirm that candidate will take place Jan. 17.

A man who largely avoided the public spotlight and declined to be interviewed even for a profile Roll Call wrote about him earlier this year, Livingood was still seen once a year on millions of television screens as he announced the president’s arrival on the House floor to deliver his annual State of the Union address.

First appointed by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995, Livingood has seen much throughout his tenure, including four presidential inaugural ceremonies and 20 presidential addresses.

He has also seen difficult times in the almost two decades he has overseen the security of the Capitol complex: the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing; the 1998 shootings of Capitol Police Detective John Gibson and Officer Jacob Chestnut; the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and anthrax scare on Capitol Hill; and the near-fatal shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) this January.

“I am truly humbled and honored to have had the privilege to serve this institution under four Speakers,” Livingood said in the statement. “I have been fortunate to witness and personally participate in countless events that have shaped the course of our country.”

Shortly after the announcement of his retirement, House leaders issued statements praising his prolific career.

“Bill’s hard earned and well deserved retirement will be a real loss for the House,” Boehner said.

“Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood has served the House of Representatives, and indeed the nation, with distinction,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “His retirement marks the end of an era defined by Bill’s dedicated leadership, sound judgment, and laser-like focus on what is best for the institution, its Members, staff and visitors.”

Although Boehner will have the deciding voice in naming Livingood’s successor, neither his nor Pelosi’s staffs indicated what the selection process would look like.

Few lawmakers and staffers have been on Capitol Hill long enough to recall what was involved in naming Livingood to the post 16 years earlier. But today, members of the House Administration Committee, which oversees campus security, told Roll Call that they expected to weigh in on Boehner’s pick.

Reps. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), said they both expect to be involved.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, which funds Capitol Hill operations including the security budget, also said he hopes to be consulted, along with chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.).

“I would hope that Speaker Boehner will ask for our input,” Honda said, “and I think the full job description should be put out so people have a chance to at least compete for [the job], and it should be kind of a neutral pick that is not political but about getting the person who has the skills and knowledge and the vision for this job.”

Whoever it is, Harper said, “that person has mighty big shoes to fill.”

Clarification: Dec. 1, 2011

An earlier version of this story was unclear about how Bill Livingood’s number of years as House Sergeant-at-Arms compares with previous Sergeants-at-Arms.

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