Editorial: Right man, bad timing?

We wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse the nomination of Jim Williams to be administrator of the General Services Administration. Former GSA Administrator Lurita Doan hired him to be the first commissioner of GSA’s Federal Technology Service, and nominating him for the top post is a masterful move on the Bush administration’s part. Williams is like a grown-up Boy Scout — somebody we trust to put the interests of the government above his own.

Some critics have implied that the federal community, in its enthusiastic response to the nomination, is over-hyping Williams. It’s true that Williams is not Superman — he will not be able to fix all of GSA’s problems single-handedly. However, we believe he is a knowledgeable, strong leader who is uniquely qualified to deal with GSA’s challenges in a proactive ways.

In recent years, we have urged GSA to move beyond its internal machinations and put its focus where it should be — on customers. Williams understands that, and we believe that his talents and skills can help GSA move beyond the battles that have defined the agency in recent years.

Our only concerns center on the timing of his nomination. With many lawmakers hitting the campaign trail, a timely Senate confirmation seems doubtful. And if Williams is confirmed, will he have enough time to accomplish anything before the Bush administration leaves office? We can only hope that the Senate moves as quickly as possible.

We also hope that a new administration will see Williams as a transitional figure in the truest sense of the word. If he is willing to stay, Williams would offer the new administration stability and a vision of what an organization that provides general services to government agencies could be.

Too often in recent years, we have seen people put in political positions who had little interest or expertise in government issues. Fresh insights and new ideas are important, but in too many cases, political appointees seemed ill-suited to their jobs. If the next administration is committed to change, one welcome development would be putting the right people into those roles.

We also must mention the retirement of David Bibb, who has served as GSA’s deputy administrator and done several tours as acting administrator. He is one of the government’s best and brightest. Through the years, he has provided GSA with the stability and insight that were sometimes missing in the corner office. He has always been a class act, and we are disappointed that he is leaving. We wish him all the best in his new ventures.

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