While with [House Majority Leader Steny] Hoyer’s office [as his legislative director for ten years], Berry worked on federal government employment issues and helped craft locality pay reform, issues of importance to the Maryland congressman, whose district is home to many federal workers. Those experiences earned him wide praise from Federal workers unions when his name first surfaced as possible OPM director in January.
“I can think of no better person than John Berry to lead the Office of Personnel Management,” Hoyer said. “John is an incredibly qualified public servant who possesses significant management experience, great knowledge of government, and a high regard for our federal workforce. Anyone who has worked with him knows how very bright and positive a person he is. He is an excellent choice to lead OPM, and I strongly support his nomination.”Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Workforce Subcommittee, which will oversee Berry’s nomination, also had high praise for Obama’s pick.”I know John to be a strong, capable, and passionate leader,” Akaka said. “OPM is key to our government’s ability to perform, because human capital is critical in everything our government does, from national security to financial industry oversight. We need someone like John who can attract talented leaders and maintain quality across federal agencies so management will be at its prime.”
President Obama has just made John Berry, the current director of the National Zoo, the highest-ranking openly gay appointee ever by tapping him to head the Office of Personnel Management (pending Congressional approval). As an assistant secretary at the Interior department under President Clinton, Berry fought to end a wide range of discriminatory policies, including background checks for gay and lesbian applicants for National Park Service law enforcement jobs, and worked to set up a grievance process for employees who were harassed because of their sexual orientation. The Office of Personnel Management might not seem like a bully pulpit for a gay rights advocate like Berry. But, unlike workers at more than half of the Fortune 500 companies, the 1.8 million employees who fill the ranks of the federal government don’t have domestic partnership benefits. Their partners can’t participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, a plan that’s been considered a potential model for health care reform. They can’t benefit from retirement programs. And if gay federal employees move for work, their partners can’t benefit from relocation programs.