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McConnell Announces New Senate Sergeant-at-Arms

Willison will join the ranks of former SAAs (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Willison will join the ranks of former SAAs (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is sweeping the decks at the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office, replacing SAA Drew Willison with former Navy SEAL and Defense Department alumnus Frank J. Larkin for the 114th Congress.  

James W. Morhard, a former chief of staff on the Senate Appropriations Committee with more than 20 years of experience in the chamber, returns to Capitol Hill after a decade in the private sector to replace Michael Stenger in the No. 2 spot in the office, the Kentucky Republican announced on Wednesday. Together, Larkin and Morhard will oversee a staff of more than 800 employees and $200 million. The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for a range of services, from security, telecommunications and technology support to assisting senators with their staffing and financial needs.  

McConnell praised Larkin’s background in senior management positions at the U.S. Secret Service and DOD’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. His law enforcement experience also includes stints as a homicide detective and Maryland State Trooper flight paramedic.  

On Sept. 11, 2001, Larkin was a supervisor in the Secret Service’s New York Field Office, located in the World Trade Center. He survived the collapse of both towers while rescuing injured victims and was awarded the Medal of Valor. Larkin spent the following three months at ground zero involved in recovery operations before being transferred back to the White House to lead post-9/11 security operations.  

Larkin “is eminently qualified to take on the vital role of maintaining security in the Capitol and all Senate office buildings as well as protecting the members themselves,” McConnell stated.  

Morhard is an alumnus of St. Francis University and Georgetown who took his first job on the Hill in 1983, as an adviser to then-Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., after working at the Pentagon. He rose through the ranks of the institution, joining the staff of the Appropriations Committee in 1991 and eventually overseeing pre-9/11 terror response grant programs. In 2003, he became the committee’s chief of staff, laying the groundwork for two omnibus appropriations bills before departing in 2005 to found a law firm.  

McConnell bonded with Morhard in 2010, as he prepared to give one of the eulogies at former Sen. Ted Stevens’ funeral. Morhard was aboard the plane that crashed in the mountains of Alaska, killing the Republican senator and four others. The doctor who spent the night in the plane with the survivors later said she thought Morhard would perish that night.  

“Jim represents the resilience we are all capable of in very challenging circumstances,” McConnell said. “The Senate is fortunate to have someone with Jim’s knowledge of the institution agree to return and take on this important role. His expertise will help guide the efforts of the Sergeant-at-Arm’s office as we transition to the 114th Congress.”  

McConnell also announced he has selected a longtime staffer to serve as his leadership liaison with the newly named sergeant-at-arms and the secretary of the Senate.  

Stefanie Muchow will be the director of operations for McConnell’s leadership office.  

“Stef’s responsibilities are endless yet she performs them with great skill and professionalism — and an ever-present smile,” McConnell said in a statement.  

A Northern Kentucky University graduate, Muchow has worked for McConnell for a little more than a decade and has been Director of Scheduling since 2006.  

Willison, who replaced Terrance W. Gainer after his spring 2014 retirement, will exit with only an eight-month tenure at the helm of the office. His office did not immediately respond to questions about his next career move. Willison served as a staffer for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., before joining the SAA’s office in 2007.  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. 

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