Does He Check Your Ticket Stub?

(White House/Eric Draper)
It seems like an unusual career move, but Rear Admiral Stephen Rochon is ending 36-years in the U.S. Coast Guard to become Chief Usher at the White House.

He'll be taking over the job held for 20 years by Gary Walters, who retired last month.

In the White House announcement of the appointment, President Bush calls Rochon "a gifted leader and experienced manager who will be a great addition the White House."

He'll need to be. He may find that it's harder to keep the White House afloat than the Coast Guard fleet.

Walters has likened the job of Chief Usher to being the General Manager of a major hotel, with one big difference: there's just one family to look after.

But it's also like running a museum, a tourist attraction, a park and a year-round resort.

The Usher has responsibility for just about everything that goes on within the fenceline of the White House.

Whether it's a State Dinner, a news conference in the East Room, a Rose Garden reception, a tea party by the First Lady or getting the driveways shovelled after a snowstorm, it comes under the jurisdiction of the Chief Usher.

Rochon's resume includes a term as Director of Personnel Management in the Coast Guard, supervising 39,000 active duty men and women plus thousands more reservists, civilians and those in the Coast Guard Auxiliary..

His team at the White House will be considerably smaller. The residence staff numbers 93. In addition, the U.S. Park Service provides 23 people to serve as groundskeepers.

The annual household budget for running the White House totals about $12-million and that doesn't include many goods and services that are donated or provided by volunteers or reimbursed by the President's political party – such as the cost of the annual Christmas receptions each year.

The day of the Chief Usher begins before the President wakes up and doesn't end till he calls it a day.

You see the First Family at its best and worst. And you're expected to keep it to yourself.

But there are exceptions to that. When Congress was investigating the sudden appearance of those law firm records belonging to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, Gary Walters was subpoenaed to testify about how that happened.

He said he found it a most uncomfortable breach of the First Family's privacy that he was bound to protect.

Admiral Rochon ends his service in the Coast Guard on Friday, March 9th. He gets the weekend to rest up and then reports to his new job as Chief Usher at the White House on Monday, March 12th.

He might find the seas here more turbulent than in the Atlantic.

Good luck, Admiral.
  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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