Council names new top aide

February 22, 1995|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

Christopher Beauregard Emery, the White House usher fired by Hillary Rodham Clinton last year for having two phone conversations with former first lady Barbara Bush, was hired yesterday by the Howard County Council.

Mr. Emery, 37, will begin work as County Council administrator March 8 at an entry-level salary of $57,700 a year. The job can pay as much as $80,959.

He will become the fifth person to hold the administrator's job in 10 years. All of his predecessors were fired. Sheila Tolliver, the most recent administrator, served 20 months before she was fired from her $70,308 job Dec. 14 for political reasons. She is an Anne Arundel Democrat. Three of the five members are Republican.

"Chris was selected because he is a people person capable of working in a political office in a nonpolitical role," Council Chairman Charles C. Feaga, a 5th District Republican, said yesterday. The job drew 224 applicants.

Until last March 3, serving political leaders in a nonpolitical role was Mr. Emery's forte. As one of five people in the White House usher's office, the lifelong Howard County resident had attended to the personal needs of the first family and their guests for eight years.

During President Bush's years in the White House, for example, Mr. Emery installed software on Mrs. Bush's computer. A few months after she and President Bush left the White House, Mrs. Bush sought some computer help. And Mr. Emery called her back to provide it.

He didn't give the call a second thought, he said, because the usher's office frequently takes calls from former White House occupants.

"I've talked to Jimmy Carter, Luci [Johnson] Nugent and Lynda [Johnson] Robb," he said at the time of his firing. "It's the nature of the office to take calls from people who lived here. To make an issue of it just doesn't make sense. I never felt we [he and the Clintons] had anything but a comfortable, cordial working relationship."

Indeed, included in his scrapbook is a handwritten birthday note from President Clinton, saying, "I hope your day is filled with all the joy and happiness you so greatly deserve." The note is signed "Bill."

Despite such seeming affection, the chief usher called Mr. Emery into his office at noon on May 3, told him that Mrs. Clinton was "uncomfortable," and that the next day would be his last.

Mr. Emery left immediately, becoming the first White House usher fired in the 103-year history of the little-known office.

After his firing became public, he was besieged with interview requests from the major television networks and newspapers.

"I've also been pressured to write a book about the [Clinton] White House," he said yesterday. "But I've decided against it. Integrity, honor and loyalty are very important to me. I don't feel comfortable writing anything that's not positive. I'm not willing to write what the publishers want me to write."

In the 11 months since losing his White House job, Mr. Emery has been working as a computer consultant, providing office automation advice for 14 clients in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Yesterday, he was busy drafting letters to those clients, telling them he will have to abandon his consulting practice because of his new job with the Howard County Council.

As council administrator, he will be expected to put in long hours working for council members with differing views about how things should be done.

That should pose no problem for Mr. Emery, says Allan H. Kittleman, chairman of the local Republican Central Committee.

"If he could organize the personal staff at the White House with all those personalities, he can certainly handle five council members," Mr. Kittleman said. "He's going to do a fantastic job."

Mr. Kittleman said he has been hoping the council would hire Mr. Emery since hearing that he was being considered for the job.

"It calls for a person with a unique ability to work with people and Chris has certainly demonstrated that," Mr. Kittleman said. "If he was good enough for Ronald Reagan and George Bush, he's good enough for us."

Mr. Emery says the prospect of working for the County Council does not unnerve him. "I enjoy challenges," he said. "I look forward to working with people of various backgrounds. The key is be diplomatic, to strive for harmony, to make things flow -- to create an atmosphere where [council members] can work together to get things done that are very important to people. It's a fun challenge."

And one that's similar, he says, to his work at the White House. One of his chief duties there was to greet celebrities, world leaders and elected officials of every political stripe and help them feel welcome and comfortable while waiting to see the president.

The ability to relate well to people -- especially council members -- is probably the most important skill anyone can bring to job of council administrator, says county Auditor Ronald S. Weinstein, who is serving the council as acting administrator for the third time in five years.

Mr. Emery hopes to survive where his predecessors have not. "The first thing I've got to do is break that record," he said with a laugh. "I understand that [the council administrator job] is not a career position, but I would like to serve four years, if not more" in the role.

That goal can be achieved, he believes, by using diplomacy and dealing with council members in a non-partisan fashion. Although a Republican -- his wife is a member of the local Republican Central Committee -- his work at the White House demanded that he be nonpartisan.

He expects to behave similarly as council administrator. "I am not a political type," he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.