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EPA National Senior Executive Service Conference, Dulles, Virginia

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman,
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
at the
EPA National Senior Executive Service Conference
Dulles, Virginia

June 18, 2003

Thank you, Linda (Fisher), for that introduction.

I am delighted to be with you today. For the past two-and-a-half years, I have had the honor and privilege of serving as administrator of the EPA. In just a few days, that service will come to a close, as I begin what might be called my own SES mobility assignment.

I find it hard to believe that almost 30 months have passed since I first sat behind my desk in Ariel Rios. There are times when it seems like a lifetime ago, and others when it seems like just yesterday.

I arrived here having just completed seven years as the governor of New Jersey. I knew, when I took this job, that it would carry a unique set of challenges and opportunities. I have not been disappointed. As you can imagine, some of those challenges carried certain frustrations.

For instance, I had to transition from making decisions as a chief executive to making recommendations to a chief executive B and that wasn = t always easy. At least now I know how my Cabinet in New Jersey felt. But despite the occasional frustration, there = s no doubt in my mind that the rewards have far outweighed the frustrations.

I firmly believe that the policies we have pursued and the actions we have taken will leave America=s air cleaner, its water purer, and its land better protected.

I also have no doubt that we have begun to change the way we discuss the environment in this country B we are starting to focus less on process and more on results. That change will take time B and it probably will take a long time B but the focus on results will make the debate over environmental policy less polarized and more constructive.

I am proud of what we have accomplished together and I will go home with a sense that I did help make a difference for the environment we will leave our children and grandchildren.

I will take with me recollections of battles won and battles lost, opportunities seized and opportunities that got away. But more than anything, what I will remember most are the people with whom I have had the pleasure of working B the dedicated men and women that make this Agency all that it is and will be in the years ahead. Each of you here, as career, professional leaders of this Agency, can take great pride in the job you and your staff do, everyday, to ensure that the EPA meets its responsibility to the American people.

The level of dedication, expertise, experience, passion and just plain brains that EPA contains is staggering. I have never ceased to be impressed by just how hard people work, just how deeply they care, and just how committed they are to doing the right thing.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in the success of the SES mobility program we have, together, carried out. A significant number of our SES corps changed jobs, leaving the relative comfort of familiar surroundings and issues to tackle new ones. There were some who thought this was crazy B that moving people out of jobs they did well and at which they were experienced into positions that were new to them was a recipe for disaster. But I always believed that if you have talented people, who know how to make things happen, they can succeed wherever they are. The best way to inspire new levels of excellence is by giving smart, capable leaders new challenges and opportunities. You have certainly proved me right. The SES mobility has benefitted the entire Agency and I am grateful that you have made it work.

In a just a few moments, Linda and I will be presenting the 2002 Presidential Rank Awards to the 15 among you who are being recognized for especially outstanding service to the Agency and the Nation. These prestigious awards are a source of honor, not just to the recipients, but to this Agency as well. Each of the recipients reflects the ethos that makes this such a great Agency B a commitment to serve with energy, integrity, and skill. I am grateful for the opportunity to present them today.

Over the past several weeks, I have been asked repeatedly what advice I would give my successor. My answer has surprised those who = ve asked it. Clearly, having read the stories about how badly abused I = ve supposedly been in this job, they expect me to say, A Turn around, and run as fast as you can. @ But the contrary is true B I will tell anyone who asks that this is a job worth doing. And the best advice I can give to whomever the next administrator is, is simply this B trust the career staff. Yes, trust the career staff B they know what they = re talking about, they care about what they = re working on, and they want the Agency to succeed. Because the people who make up this Agency are so good, care so much, and work so hard, any administrator will be halfway to the goal just by letting you and your colleagues take the field.

As eager as I am to return to my husband and my home in New Jersey, there = s no doubt that I will miss the people with whom I = ve had the real pleasure to work these last two- and-a-half years.

I admire the work you do and the passion with which you do it. I respect the experience you have and the intelligence with which you apply it. And I will treasure the memories we = ve made and fun we have had while making them.

Thank you.