Good morning and thank you all for being here. Thank you, Patricia [Adkins] for that very gracious introduction.

I want to thank everyone at ICPHSO, especially President Nancy Cowles, soon-to-be President Rick Brenner, and Executive Director Marc Schoem, for all of their efforts in organizing this event. ICPHSO remains the gold standard for product safety information sharing and networking. You are such a critical part of product safety.

I truly am honored to be here this morning as the Acting Chairman of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

For me, being Acting Chairman at CPSC is the culmination of many aspects of my life, including working as a nurse and later as a healthcare attorney, serving as a member of Congress and most importantly, raising six kids and being very involved in the lives of my 17 grandkids.

I have spent my life in advocacy. I believe this is where I am meant to be. This is critically important as we all work together to advance safe products.

Although he is unable to be here this year, I want to thank Elliot Kaye for his years of service at CPSC as Chairman, Executive Director, and Chief of Staff to former Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. He has made invaluable contributions to CPSC and to safety and I am pleased he will continue to serve on the Commission. I look forward to continuing to work with him, as well as Commissioners Robert Adler, Marietta Robinson, and Joseph Mohorovic.  Despite policy differences, we enjoy a collegiality that allows us to disagree agreeably and advance safety. I look forward to continuing to work with all of my colleagues in this new capacity.

I also want to recognize former Chairman Inez Tenenbaum for her service to our country, not only with product safety, but also in education.

I want to recognize CPSC’s Executive Director, Patricia Adkins. Patricia, along with her staff, DeWane Ray and Monica Summit, has been, and will continue to be, a key resource to me during this transition period.

Lastly, I want to recognize my staff who are all here today.  Nancy Lowery, who will be my Chief-of-Staff; Gib Mullan, my chief counsel; and Katelyn Costello, the office administrator.

Three weeks ago today, I received a call from the White House and within 24 hours became the acting Chairman of CPSC. Since then, among other things, I have spent much of my time speaking to the staff within the agency. This morning, I would like to share with you what my message has been to so many.

I have asked Patricia to stay on as my Executive Director during the transition, and I am delighted that she has agreed to do so. Patricia leads with impeccable professionalism and grace, and is such a skillful communicator, regardless of the issue or the audience. I sincerely thank her for her willingness to continue serving.

I also note that I have asked Scott Wolfson, Julia Richardson, and Mary Boyle to stay on as Communications Director, Legislative Affairs Director, and General Counsel respectively. They have also agreed. I believe this continuity allows the agency to make the appropriate adjustments without any abrupt changes. Whenever there is change, there is uncertainty and with uncertainty, there is anxiety. Therefore, I will be as transparent as I can be, not only with staff but all of you, to reduce the uncertainty during these days and weeks ahead.

And now for the elephant in the room:  We are experiencing some unpredictable times in Washington DC and across this great Nation. As best I can interpret the election results, the American people repudiated politics as usual on both sides of the aisle. They are looking for their government to do things differently, and I think, for better or worse, that is happening

The good news for CPSC is that we are an independent regulatory agency. We are a part of the Executive Branch, but we are designed to be bipartisan and less subject to the President’s control than the Cabinet agencies. Even our physical location in Bethesda gets us out of the proverbial “swamp.” Our mission of safety does not change.  Our organic statutes do not evaporate nor do our regulations.  Our focus must remain on safety, data, and science.

There is no need for any of us, to respond to the media hysteria. The regulatory freeze is more like a pause, and applies only for a limited time. Nor is it unusual for a new president to enact one.

The “two out, one in” executive order, while less conventional, provides guidance to independent agencies like our own. The guidance encourages us “to identify existing regulations that if repealed or reversed would achieve cost savings and fully offset the costs of new significant regulatory actions.” I would suggest that is what reasonable regulators should always be doing.

Having said that, however, we do work for the American people and we cannot simply ignore the election results. As we go forward, our attitudes and our work should always be responsive and accountable to the American people.

The transition from the previous administration to the current one is more akin to turning an aircraft carrier than it is flipping a switch. Since I arrived at the Commission three and a half years ago, my approach has been to strive for good governance, build relationships, take advantage of the best safety data, expertise and analysis available (both inside and outside of the agency), and to understand and implement the mission of the CPSC.

While my policy positions and principles as Acting Chairman certainly differ from those of my predecessor, they do not differ from my attitude as a Commissioner. With that in mind, I really hope to influence agency operations and policy by bringing the same approach to running the agency that I have followed as a Commissioner. That means:

  • Being a staunch advocate for collaboration with all stakeholders;
  • taking a balanced and reasonable approach to regulation; and
  • expanding education and awareness for both consumers and businesses alike.

Those are the principles I implemented when I came to the Commission and those will remain during my tenure as Acting Chairman. Nothing I do or stand for should really come as any surprise to anyone because I have not changed my core principles.

CPSC regulates more than 15,000 types of consumer products and we do it with well under 600 people and a budget of just $125 million. It is unrealistic to think that we can possibly execute our mission effectively without collaborating with all stakeholders.

Consumers, industry, and CPSC all have a common interest; businesses are not just made up of owners who single-mindedly seek profits any more than government is just made up of single-minded bureaucrats.  Rather, both are made up of consumers who work hard every day and have families for whom they want safe products. I am asking all of you, this morning, to reject the stereotypes that are often applied to the stakeholders. I am challenging each of you, to be a visionary as to what we can accomplish if we are willing to work together.

CPSC is a small organization charged with carrying out a very big mission.

We cannot achieve this mission in isolation. We need your input. Please know that my door is always open. I cannot guarantee that we will agree on every issue, but I can assure you that I will always hear you and work with you to find a solution. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you in any way. Gib, Nancy, Katelyn, and I stand ready to serve.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be here today.  May God bless all of you and may God bless the United States of America.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Ann Marie Buerkle