Three years after former Architect of the Capitol (AOC) Alan Hantman retired at the end of his 10-year term, the appointed government position has remained vacant—although the acting architect, Stephen Ayers, has by all reports done a good job. Now, President Barack Obama plans to nominate Ayers to a full term as chief of the federal agency, according to an announcement from the AOC’s press office. The move comes almost three weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan measure that would eliminate the president from the selection process.
Responsible for the maintenance, development, and preservation of the sprawling Capitol complex in Washington, D.C., which encompasses more than 16 million square feet of buildings and 450 acres of land, the office of the AOC was established by an act of Congress in 1876. Initially, AOC leaders were appointed by U.S. presidents for an indefinite amount of time, but legislation passed in 1989 stipulated that chief architects would serve 10-year terms, with eligibility for reappointment. Hantman was the first agency chief chosen under the new rules, in 1997. There was a brief flurry of activity after his departure on a possible replacement, but then-President George W. Bush never took action, and Ayers continued to serve as acting architect.
The AIA applauded the news of Ayers’ nomination. “Mr. Ayers has shown leadership, foresight, and a steady hand as he led the Architect of the Capitol’s office for the last three years,” said CEO Christine McEntee in a press release, adding that “there are still urgent needs facing the Capitol complex, from reducing its carbon footprint to renovating buildings in need of repair, and the Office of the Architect of the Capitol will benefit from Mr. Ayers’ capable leadership.”