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Mikulski: ‘Long before Google there was Chuck Kieffer’

Former Senate Appropriations chair pays tribute to longtime staffer

Former Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is seen during a ceremony to name rooms on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol after her and Margaret Chase Smith, R-Maine., on Wednesday, June 8, 2022.
Former Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is seen during a ceremony to name rooms on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol after her and Margaret Chase Smith, R-Maine., on Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., retired after the 2016 elections, ending her tenure as the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history. She was the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, a post she held from late 2012 until 2015 before a two-year stint as full committee ranking member before leaving Congress.

Chuck Kieffer served as staff director during Mikulski’s time as top Appropriations Democrat, a position he’s held for three panel chairs.

[Top appropriations aide and ‘institutionalist’ Kieffer to retire]

Mikulski couldn’t make it to last week’s going-away party in the Dirksen Senate Office Building for Kieffer and Chanda Betourney, his deputy under former Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. But Mikulski sent a letter that attendees read aloud. The full, unedited text is below.

February 15, 2023

I am sorry I could not be here with you in person. We gather to give a real tribute to two outstanding Appropriations Committee Senior Staff members Charles E. “Chuck” Kieffer and Chanda Betourney. A special shout out to Chanda. She always got the job done, and she worked so diligently for Sen. Leahy helping him serve the Nation and knows Vermont cold, and I mean REALLY cold!

Then, of course, there is Chuck Kieffer, who served our Nation with extraordinary public service for more than 40 years.

Dear Kieffer,

Long before Google there was Chuck Kieffer. Long before there was Wikipedia there was Chuck Kieffer. Who needs encyclopedia Britannica when you have Chuck Kieffer? In the Senate who needs a Parliamentarian or a Historian? We have had Chuck Kieffer.

All of us who have worked with him know that Chuck Kieffer is always there when you need him. For me, and previously leaders of the Appropriations Committee, we relied upon him. Truly possessing an Encyclopedic understanding of the Federal budget. Yet, he also could translate what it meant to people, their communities as well as the Country. I counted on him for his vast years of experience in government from working at OMB, until he was rescued and came over to the Appropriations committee. When Chuck came into our meetings, all could be rest assured that he would be prepared, really smart, and offer sensible solutions with a pragmatic strategy for achieving them. But, most of all, Chuck Kieffer is a really terrific human being. Civil, collegial, compassionate, and even a little cunning when necessary.

Chuck, I know that you would be the first to say that you didn’t get here or stay here by yourself. Public service is in your DNA. Your father was an outstanding and very principled public servant. Supported by your mother, he even risked his job taking on higher powers in the executive branch to do the right and honorable thing. We are grateful for what they taught you about integrity and duty. We also want to thank Meg, your supportive wife, who had to put up with late night phone calls, over the weekend negotiations and read outs. Meg, we thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made.

Chuck, we wish you more time with your wonderful family, your own children, and your dynamic grandchildren. Know that there is a lot waiting for you — trips to take, books to read that don’t have numbers in them, and great surprises.

With admiration and gratitude, 

Barbara A. Mikulski

U.S. Senator (Ret.)

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