Mint director vacancy likely to remain for another full year

Published : 01/11/12
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It has been a full year since the United States Mint has had a presidentially appointed director. Yet, if anyone in Congress or over at the White House cares, he or she is doing a good job of keeping it a secret.

When Edmund C. Moy, the 38th director of the U.S. Mint appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, resigned effective Jan. 9, 2011, most observers assumed President Obama would move to put his own appointee into office.

Moy, who was sworn into office on Sept. 5, 2006, waged a very public campaign, insisting that his appointment was for a five-year term that remained in force despite the change in administration, especially when the Obama administration began to turn its attention to presidential appointment slots in mid-2009.

Even though several Democrats with seemingly great credentials were said to have interviewed for the job, the Obama White House seemed to put this particular appointment on the back burner.

Whether the White House just wasn’t interested or they bought Moy’s argument without fact-checking, no one with real knowledge of the situation is talking. (Historically, before Moy’s arrival it had been customary for all presidential appointees to tender their resignations at the end of a four-year presidential term. If the president were of a mind to appoint someone else, the resignation was accepted. If he wanted the incumbent to continue serving, the resignation letter was quietly “turned back” or returned.)

Especially in cases in which a new president of a different party took up residence on Pennsylvania Avenue, few Mint directors in the nearly 220-year history of the Mint insisted upon staying in office, even though maybe months or even years technically were left in their term.

The Mint director position is, after all, a presidential appointment, and as such the appointee serves at the pleasure of the sitting president. It is important for the president to have his own executive team in place. And it is important for an agency such as the U.S. Mint to have an advocate with political standing or the ability to bring to the attention of senior executives within an administration the salient points that should be considered when major decisions are to be made involving the Mint and the nation’s coinage.

Since Moy’s departure it has seemed much like a game of musical chairs.

With Moy’s departure, Richard “Dick” Peterson — the Mint’s associate director of manufacturing beginning in October 2008 — was named both deputy director and acting director by Treasurer of the United States Rosa Gumataotao Rios. Fred A. “Al” Runnels, Treasury’s deputy chief financial officer, was named deputy Mint director.

After serving as acting U.S. Mint director the maximum 210 days allowed under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-277), Peterson returned Aug. 8 to his title as deputy Mint director and Runnels was reassigned as U.S. Mint chief of staff.

Even though Peterson’s and Funnels’ titles changed back in the fall, each has continued to perform the same duties that he had been performing since earlier in 2011; that is, Peterson is still performing the duties of Mint director rather than the duties of deputy Mint director, while Runnels continues to direct the U.S. Mint’s day-to-day operations, normally the duty of the deputy Mint director.

Meanwhile the U.S. Mint continues to face critical issues such as finding less expensive alloys for the nation’s circulating coinage, marketing debacles in its numismatic and bullion coin programs, and keeping pace with demand for its silver, gold and platinum bullion coins.

With less than a year left in President Obama’s first term, even if the White House suddenly decided to nominate a director, few qualified candidates would seriously consider taking the job. All would be awaiting the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

Thus, the Mint will remain an important government agency without a leader having any real political capital for at least another year. ■

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