Since Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Jan. 16 that he plans to step down at the end of March, federal government watchers have speculated that Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry may be in the running to replace him. When I asked Berry that day about the job, he wouldn’t even say whether he had talked to President Obama. “No comment,” Berry said. “At this point, I stand ready to serve the President in any capacity he desires.”
But his old friend and former boss, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, is far less reticent about Berry’s possible promotion.
“Yes, I do know that [Obama] is looking at him,” Hoyer told me at a lunch briefing in Bowie, Md. Hoyer continued:
I’ve talked to the Obama administration. I’ve talked to [Obama adviser] Peter Rouse, who’s helping coordinate that. They really like John Berry. They think John Berry has done an outstanding job as director of the Office of Personnel Management.
Hoyer lauded Berry’s experience as Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget during the Clinton administration. “He, in effect, ran the department,” Hoyer said. “Bruce Babbitt, who was secretary at the time, has told me that he did an absolutely extraordinary job. So I think John Berry would be a wonderful secretary of Interior.”
Hoyer said he doesn’t know if the White House ultimately will select Berry, and notes that Interior secretaries have traditionally come from Western states. Berry is from Maryland. But Hoyer thinks the White House will make a decision soon, and said running Interior would be Berry’s dream job.
What he wants is Interior. He loves conservation issues, he loves preservation, he loves the outdoors. He’s wonderful, wonderful, one of the most positive human beings I’ve ever met in my life.
OPM declined to comment, and referred me to Berry’s previous statement.