Printing office to lose its leader

Bruce James laid the groundwork for a new digital culture at the Government Printing Office

The decision by Public Printer Bruce James, head of the Government Printing Office, to retire in the middle of a major agency transformation might be good, some succession experts say, because he prepared GPO to move forward on its own.

When James took office three and a half years ago, he pledged to remain public printer for three to five years — the time he estimated it would take to reposition GPO for the future. He said the agency has accomplished that mission.

Under James’ leadership, GPO created its first information technology workforce, planned a next-generation digital information system and moved into the business of secure and intelligent documents.

His decision to retire in the not-too-distant future was always the intention, James said, when he announced his resignation April 13. He will leave the agency after President Bush appoints a new public printer, probably near the end of the year.

“I certainly wouldn’t be leaving if I didn’t think we were on the way to full success,” James said.

He said he will groom his replacement and then return home to Nevada with his wife, Nora. During retirement, James will devote his energies to higher education. As chairman emeritus of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Board of Trustees, James has agreed to join the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. He will work on a new model for 21st-century higher education as a member of the national organization.

In a letter to GPO employees, he wrote, “I want to assure you that I will work hard to make a smooth transition of leadership so that GPO does not miss a step going forward. But at the end of the day it is up to you. Just as you have helped build the new, 21st-century GPO, it is you who must continue to move the agency forward every day. I wouldn’t leave if I was not sure you could do it.”

The people who run GPO’s manufacturing operation now spend about 80 percent of their time on digital equipment, and managers are equipped with BlackBerry wireless devices.

Outsiders say James’ departure is unlikely to disrupt GPO’s progress. “I have heard public pronouncements by him, which I think are sincere, expressing admiration for his workforce and career managers, and I think that’s a very positive thing,” said John Palguta, vice president for policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. “He’s had a chance to make sure he’s got the right people in the right jobs and to make sure they have the right values.”

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