WASHINGTON -- It’s a tall order straight from the president: Find anyone at the Internal Revenue Service who improperly targeted conservatives. Hold them responsible. Fix the system so it never happens again.
And you have 30 days. Report back then on your progress.
Daniel Werfel, who goes by Danny, might be used to it. He’s spent most of his career since earning a master’s in public policy from Duke University and a law degree from the University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill working for a Republican and a Democrat in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
“We are confident that he will hit the ground running,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin assured the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Wednesday, Werfel’s first day on the job.
On Day 2, Werfel replaced Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS unit that decides on tax-exempt status.
The IRS scandal makes the agency a hot potato. But colleagues say Werfel has the work ethic, skills and integrity for the job.
And add a sense of humor. He keeps a photo of Heisman Trophy-winning Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel in his office.
Werfel the career civil servant most recently was controller of the Office of Management and Budget. It’s a job similar to a chief financial officer in a business. All the federal agencies reported to him about spending.
He had a central role in instructing them how to cut spending across the board in the sequester. Before that, he helped manage President Barack Obama’s stimulus spending.
Kenneth Baer worked with Werfel at that time in the OMB. People of both parties like to make fun of federal bureaucrats, said Baer, now a managing director at The Harbour Group, a Washington public relations firm.
“But the truth is, by and large there’s a group of very senior managers who are 100 percent committed to good government, to delivering for the American people, to making sure every tax dollar is spent wisely in these very large organizations, and who just really give their all,” he said.
“And Danny is one of the best.”
Now Werfel is moving from a senior job in a White House office with about 500 people, where he spent most of his career, to manage the IRS with its 90,000 employees and a budget of more than $11 billion.
Baer entered the OMB when Obama started office. Werfel already was there in a senior position, having worked through the administration of President George W. Bush. The economy was in free-fall. Congress passed the economic recovery legislation, and Werfel had a key role in overseeing the stimulus spending.
“That’s why we hit ground running in January 2009. Danny was there already,” Baer said. “We could not have gotten that up and running without Danny and his ability to get his team to execute on that.”
Stephen McMillin, who was deputy director of OMB during the Bush administration, said Werfel was a nonpolitical career official who was “just no-nonsense, calm and understood his issues, which could be arcane at the controller’s office at OMB.”
At the end of the Bush administration, “we actually named him acting head of that part of the agency,” or acting controller, McMillin said, and then “he was so well-regarded by the incoming folks that they decided to name him to the political position” as the controller.