Posts Tagged ‘Harrison Wellford’

Transition Off to Quick Start

November 7, 2008

The media has focused on the rapid start of the Obama transition effort. I was called by a reporter yesterday and asked my impression of what’s happened, just 48 hours after the election, compared to past transitions. I observed that, compared to past transitions, this one seems to have gotten underway much quicker. But that was just my observation from my reading the history.  However, this was confirmed for me last night at an event sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government on the transition where Harrison Wellford spoke. Wellford has been an advisor to every Democratic presidential transition team since Jimmy Carter took office. He said this was the best Democratic transition start he’s ever been associated with. He said he’s “very excited about how this is going,” and foresees quick action on making key appointments as well as defining 3-4 key policy areas where the new Obama Administration can take quick action. He also foresees an emphasis on transparency and teamwork during the transition.

Separately, the new Obama Transition Website was turned on – aptly named  The site has a number of high tech capabilities:  a newsroom, a blog to document the transition, a message board to allow citizens to post comments and their aspirations for the next Administration, and background material. But most important for some – a link where you can send your resume if you want to work for the next Administration! According to WTOP News, their offices are located at 451 Sixth Street, NW (just look for the newly erected security barriers) just a block from Verizon Center.

In addition, the 2008-2009 Transition Resources Website was turned on yesterday. It is part of the effort being undertaken by the General Services Administration and the National Archives. This site is targeted to the incoming transition team and new appointees and provides an overview of resources and laws. It includes organization charts of the government as well as links to a range of useful resources.

Also, the Council for Excellence in Goverment launched its Presidential Transition website, as well.  It’s got a lot of useful resources and up-to-date news.

Finally, the much-anticipated 2008 Plum Book, that lists all political appointment positions, is scheduled to be released on Wednesday, November 12th.


Transition Advice from Experts

July 3, 2008
The July-August 2008 issue of Public Administration Review contains a trio of articles offering advice to the presidential candidates’ transition teams.  Each of the articles offers advice based on experience and history.  As might be expected, there are many parallels.


  Dr. Martha Kumar, who directs The White House Transition Project, did an article, “Getting Ready for Day One,” which offers historical insights into what candidates’ transition teams should be doing, starting now!  These include:

·      Campaign commitments can affect the ease or difficulty with which the president-elect establishes the direction of the Administration and staffs the offices.

·      The importance of an information-gathering operation prior to the convention to identify information on personnel and timetables for decisions to be made.

·      Monitor the actions of the incumbent president and administration to be aware of issues that may come to the fore in the early days of the new Administration.

·      Focus on the White House decision-making process, key White House positions, and budget officials.

·      Coordinate both people and policy around the president’s agenda.


Harrison Wellford, who helped manage President Jimmy Carter’s transition – both in and out of the White House (and served as an advisor to subsequent presidential transition teams) – wrote “Preparing to Be President on Day One.”    He offers advice on the attributes of a successful transition team.  For example, the transition leader should have a close relationship with the candidate and be trusted by the campaign.  He also advises establishing a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with the outgoing administration, and learn from the institutional memory of both outgoing teams as well as from senior career executives.  Pointing to the Clinton transition, he notes “Avoid musical chairs in transition leadership after the election!”


And finally, Clay Johnson III, who was President George W. Bush’s transition director in 2000 and, as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget is helping manage the transition out for this Administration, wrote an authoritative: “Recommendations for an Effective 2008 Transition.”  Johnson based his insights on the latest transition:  a cost of at least $9 million, a staff of at least 800, an influx of at least 75,000 resumes.  He offers practical advice about schedules, priorities, and communication.  For example, he notes “Expect a lot of advice from member of previous administrations, ‘experts,” interest groups, lobbyists, governors, legislators, donors, and the like.”  He advises the incoming transition team to clearly inform such advisors on the best ways to communicate with the team.  But his key advice, like both Dr. Kumar and Mr. Wellford, is to start preparing to govern months before the party nominating conventions.


Note:  Links to the articles cited are used with the permission of the American Society for Public Administration.