New chairman overhauls committee staff

By Phil Taylor | 01/06/2015 06:49 AM EST

Incoming House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) is shaking up the panel that oversees federal lands, wildlife and fisheries, sacking several key staffers and terminating a major subcommittee, sources said.

Bishop, who previously served two terms as chairman of the committee’s public lands subpanel, is replacing retired Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). His committee oversees oil and gas and renewable energy development, mining, logging and wildlife protections on roughly one-fifth of American lands and almost all of its oceans.

Bishop announced in late November that he had hired Staff Director Jason Knox and Deputy Staff Director Todd Ungerecht, both of whom are committee veterans, to lead his team (E&ENews PM, Nov. 20, 2014).


Bishop appears to have cleaned house, firing or bidding adieu to at least 11 staffers in a shakeup some described as broad for a changing of the gavel, especially when the same political party remains in charge.

Bishop let go of Hastings’ staff director, Todd Young.

Other departures include Tim Charters, who was staff director for the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, which oversees oil and gas, renewable energy and mining. Amanda Tharpe, who handled onshore energy development on the EMR Subcommittee and worked under Charters, has also left.

Charters, according to a news release yesterday, is taking a job as vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs for the National Stripper Well Association.

Bishop also dissolved the Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Subcommittee, which oversaw wildlife resources, fisheries and oceanography, as well as territories including American Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Gone are longtime staffers for that panel, including Harry Burroughs, David Whaley and Bonnie Bruce, according to sources. Burroughs had worked for the committee’s predecessor, the Merchant Marine Committee, as far back as the 1980s.

Also leaving the committee are oversight staffers Machalagh Carr, who was picked up by new Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), and Byron Brown, a source said.

The panel’s Republican communications staff has all left. The exodus began in early November, when panel spokesman Mallory Micetich took a job with the National Association of Manufacturers. In recent weeks, Communications Director Jill Strait and spokesman Michael Tadeo also left.

Tadeo has joined the Republican communications staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Strait is pursuing employment off Capitol Hill.

Brandon Cockerham, who joined the House Natural Resources Committee about six months ago, is currently the only aide working in its communications shop. He said yesterday that he was unable to confirm any of the committee’s staffing or structural changes.

In total, Bishop has parted company with about half of the Republican staff, one source said.

Changes on the Democratic side have been considerably less drastic thus far.

Incoming ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) early last month announced that Meghan Conklin will serve as his staff director in the 114th Congress. Conklin was a senior aide on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and formerly served as a high-level appointee in the Interior Department and Fish and Wildlife Service during the Obama administration.

Grijalva has also hired Adam Sarvana as communications director. Sarvana previously served in Grijalva’s personal office.

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