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.’