In 2010, you became CFPB’s first FOIA manager. Where did you get your start with the FOIA and how did you end up at CFPB?
My introduction to FOIA was during my tenure with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in the late 1990s. Following my separation from the Air Force, I was a contractor providing technology support to the Army Intelligence and Security Command’s FOIA/Privacy Office and Investigative Records Repository. After five years, I accepted the opportunity to lead that office before ending up at the CFPB as its first FOIA Manager.
What were some of your biggest challenges at CFPB in 2010?
Naturally, there are countless challenges with establishing a new organization. When I think back to late 2010, I remember focusing on those tasks that must be accomplished (like regulations and policies) but spent a lot of time on building a successful organizational culture around FOIA. One of the biggest challenges was implementing technology in every aspect of FOIA operations including tracking every aspect of the request to create an all-inclusive administrative record, digitizing and redacting all forms of documents, electronically responding to all requests (unless otherwise stated by requester), and the integrating of an eDiscovery solution to search emails and network drives for responsive records. Another significant challenge was building a culture around FOIA, which included gaining the support of leadership and establishing methods to continually educate employees on FOIA.
How have CFPB’s FOIA operations changed since 2010?
I would say that the FOIA program has matured over the last five years. For example, we started tracking requests with a spreadsheet and now have a robust application that handles every aspect of a request.
What is the most unusual FOIA request you have ever worked on? The most interesting request?
I have always found the requests that involve a perceived conspiracy particularly interesting, from the point of view of what the public thinks the government is up to behind the scenes. For example, requests that involve UFOs. Likewise, my most interesting requests came when I supported the federal law enforcement and the intelligence communities.
In late 2015, you left your position as FOIA manager to become CFPB’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer. What are some of your current duties?
In general, I develop and implement a variety of strategies to support the Facilities, Security, Library, Records Management, and FOIA programs. Additionally, I work on a multitude of operational matters across the CFPB.
What do you miss and not miss about being a full-time FOIA practitioner?
Ironically, I miss the interaction with the public. However, I do appreciate not hearing complaints about processing requests from the public any longer. Sorry, I am being honest!
Will you stay involved with FOIA at CFPB or in your personal capacity?
Yes. In my new position at the CFPB, I am still involved with FOIA.
What will you remember the most about your time as FOIA manager at CFPB? What accomplishments as CFPB’s FOIA manager are you most proud of?
It was very rewarding to have the opportunity to be one of the first 100 employees at a new startup. I was blessed with the chance to develop every aspect of a FOIA operation from scratch, as well as a culture around transparency.
Getting a little more personal, where were you born/grow up?
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which is the home of the 1889 flood, steel mills, coal mines, and the steepest vehicular inclined plane in the world.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I attended a vocational technical high school and majored in computer programming (the old stuff like COBOL, Fortran, RPG). While in the Air Force, I graduated from the College of Southern Maryland with an AAS in Information Services Technology and the Community College of the Air Force with an AAS in Information Management. Lastly, I earned a BS degree in Information Systems Management and a MS in Management (minor in Homeland Security) from the University of Maryland University College.
What was your first job ever? What did you like or not like about it?
I grew up on a farm and loved it! It gave me the foundation for a good work ethic, but I think it contributed to the allergies I have now!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Well, I have two young kids under 5 years old, so I have no spare time!
If you could meet any historical icon, of the past or present, who would it be and why?
Probably Ronald Reagan because he was such a diplomat throughout the world and cared deeply for his family.
Name a favorite book, television series, and movie
I do not like to read, but I do read the Bible quite a bit. Favorite television series is definitely Law & Order, and favorite movie is probably Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood.
What was your most memorable travel experience?
Unfortunately, I do not travel very much. However, I have a lot of good and bad memories from my (official) travel to Saudi Arabia to support Operation Southern Watch.