Who Was The Most Disliked Staffer in D.C.? More Candidates!

While I was limiting the selection of the most disliked person at the Peace Corps to just the first few years, RPCVs who came along later to the agency have other candidates and many singled out Lloyd Pearson, who, according to them 1) brought all the lawyers from USAID into the agency; 2) kept Jody Olson nailed to her chair so the only RPCV on senior staff couldn’t visit PCVs; and (3) then used his Peace Corps position (I think he was chief of staff) to get a great job for himself at…USAID!

He isn’t the first person to use the Peace Corps as the shining star on a resume and get ahead in Washington, nor will he be the last.

Remember Barbara Zartman? She was the deputy director, then Acting Director of the Peace Corps with the departure of Elaine Chao, and took advantage of her few remaining days as a Bush political appointee by immediately flying off to visit Russia and Tunisia under the guise of Peace Corps business.

Unfortunately, there is a long tradition of such official boondoggles at Peace Corps/Washington. This sort of junket was captured by Peace Corps Evaluator Fletcher Knebel in his 1966 novel on the Peace Corps, The Zinzin Road.

Knebel’s PC/W character was Maureen Sutherland, “….a slim, willowy young women, stylishly dressed…She wore elongated dark glasses, and a sheaf of black hair fell loosely over one eye. Her skin, as creamy as enameled china, hinted of regular facials and a variety of expensive oils and ointments.”

Sutherland was based on a legendary Africa Region desk officer of the early Sixties who would frequently fly into a West African country for a brief, whirlwind fact-finding trip, which she breezily referred to as a ‘look/see.’

Knebel describes his PC/W official on a visit to Africa–“Miss Sutherland lifted on for half an hour, festively dropping names from Lagos to Washington…she gave a glittering panorama of the world of great affairs, its intrigues, its grand policies and even its illicit loves…She concluded on a pitch of finishing-school breathlessness and looked about brightly as thought waiting for applause.”

Still waiting for applause, Zartman, a small town in upstate New York GOP chairwoman, had hoped to become the Director of the Peace Corps if Bush won a second term. She outlasted Coverdale; she oulasted Chao. And she ended her Peace Corps career in dramatic fashion. Before Clinton took over, and while she was running the show in the closing months of the Bush Administration, she rushed into place several Peace Corps projects in Eastern Europe, and a congressional investigation of sorts ‘removed’ her from Peace Corps HQ within hours, I’m told!

Barb did not move back upstate to the cold wintes of Rochester, her hometown. Instead, she settled in with the Liberals of Georgetown and ran (and lost) for a local political office.

Like the famed fictional Peace Corps character ‘Maureen Sutherland’ Barb’s glory days, as the Boss once sang, were gone in the ‘blink of a young girl’s eye.’

5 Comments

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  • John :

    You do not hasten to point out Former Peace Corps Director Elaine Chao (later President of the United Way) is Senator Mitch McConnell’s spouse. Think about that each time the minority leader approaches the microphone to announce another objection..

  • Alas, what many of us thought of as “our peace corps” was really,
    “qualquieras” or anybodie’s. When the ship of state sails into port, peace corps is waiting on the pier. Peace Corps is the property of whoever wins
    the presidential election.

  • Lloyd Pearson gave flesh to the Hungarian diplomat in “My Fair Lady” who Higgins refers to by saying, “Oozing charm from every pore, he oiled his way across the floor.” I met him a few times during my diplomatic time. A champion Washingtole n game player who always managed to come out ahead of more capable colleagues.

    While on the subject of early days in the Peace Corps I would suggest that we remember that the 1960s were the most prosperous time in America’s history. Any college graduate was assured a job just because of his degree. We could take chances on “noble ventures” because we knew we could always find gainful employment when we came home. This was not the case for later Volunteers.

  • John – Surprisingly you forgot to mention PC Director Paul Coverdell – after whom the Peace Corps building is now appallingly named, whose numerous junkets to Georgia – the state, not the country – paved the way to his election to the Senate.

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