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Women Take Charge of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office

March 4, 2021 by TWN Staff
The Senate Chamber.

WASHINGTON – For the first time in its history, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office will be led by a team composed entirely of women.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer announced Wednesday that retired Army Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson will be the new Senate sergeant-at-arms, taking over as the House and Senate are both looking to revamp Capitol security in the wake of the violent Jan. 6 riot that left five people dead.

Former Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger resigned after the attack, as did his counterpart in the House, Paul Irving, and Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.

Gibson retired last year from a 33-year Army career, including in the office of the Director of National Intelligence as the deputy director of national intelligence for national security partnerships.

She is a combat veteran and has extensive experience in intelligence and cyber operations. Most recently, Gibson participated in the review of the Jan. 6 attack led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré.

As sergeant-at-arms, Gibson will oversee a wide array of Senate functions, from security to information technology services. The Senate-elected position is effectively appointed by the majority leader.

“Gibson will work to improve the Senate’s security profile to ensure a safe and secure working environment for Senators, press, visitors, Capitol employees, and Senate staff, including staffers of color,” Schumer’s office said in a statement.

In addition to Gibson, Schumer tapped Senate veteran Kelly Fado as deputy sergeant-at-arms and Jennifer Hemingway as chief of staff.

Fado has spent over 25 years in the Senate, working on Senate Committees and as the director of Operations for former Democratic leader Tom Daschle. 

Hired by Sen. Schumer in 2011 as the director of oversight for the Senate Rules Committee, she also planned and organized the 2013 inauguration, became the Rules Committee staff director in 2014, and was appointed Democratic liaison to the SAA when Schumer became Democratic Leader.

In her new role, Fado will function as the chief operating officer, and work to modernize the services available to Senate offices and committees. 

She will continue Schumer’s longstanding focus on enhancing ADA access to Senate buildings and services, increasing the diversity and inclusivity of Senate offices and operations, improving the efficiency of Senate operations, and expanding the training options available to Senate staff.

Fado earned a B.A. in English and History from the University of California at Irvine. 

Jennifer Hemingway became the acting sergeant-at-arms of the States Senate on Jan. 7, 2021. Before that, Hemingway had served as deputy sergeant-at-arms.

During the 115th Congress, Hemingway served as director of House Operations for Speaker Paul Ryan. Prior to joining the Office of the Speaker, she served for nine years on the professional staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, including as staff director.

Hemingway also served for eight years on the professional staff of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Early in her career, she served as associate director for government affairs at the Transportation Department and as chief of staff to Rep. Joe Scarborough.

Hemingway earned a B.S. in Economics and B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida and an M.P.A. from The George Washington University.

The sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper, elected by the members, serves as the protocol and chief law enforcement officer and is the principal administrative manager for most support services in the United States Senate.

When the first Congress convened in 1789, the Office of Doorkeeper was established to address the single-most-pressing problem confronting the Senate at its birth—its inability to keep a majority of members in the Capitol long enough to organize and begin the business of government.

A doorkeeper was also necessary to control access to the Senate sessions, which were private for the first six years. Later, when the sessions were open to the public, the doorkeeper was responsible for maintaining order on the floor of the Senate and in the galleries. The title of sergeant-at-arms was added in 1798 to reflect the expanded administrative duties of the position.

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