Public service: Behind the scenes at the Capitol
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Public service: Behind the scenes at the Capitol

May 2, 2022 | Updated on April 27, 2022

Public service is the backbone of our democracy. Every day, mail carriers deliver important packages across the country; loan specialists assist small business owners and entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams and develop innovative ideas; and scientists work tirelessly to prepare for pandemics and create vaccines that protect our most vulnerable populations. Simply put, the country would not be able to function without public servants.

Congress, the people’s branch of government, is filled with opportunities to serve. While elected officials are perhaps the most visible public servants, we often overlook the Capitol workers behind the scenes who humbly support our nation’s legislative body. These individuals serve Congress regardless of party affiliation, maintaining a strict code of nonpartisanship and acting as stewards of our core public institutions.

Protecting the Capitol

The U.S. Capitol Police work throughout the Capitol campus, maintaining a safe environment for all who conduct their business on or visit the Hill. Capitol Police officers patrol the entrances that lead to the Capitol and the surrounding parks of the campus and are usually the first faces people see on their way into a congressional office building. The Capitol Police played a major role in protecting members of Congress and their staff during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

While uniformed Capitol Police officers do most of the day-to-day patrolling, the Sergeants at Arms for both the House and the Senate each hold the title of chief law enforcement officer and principal administrative manager of their respective chamber.

On the floors of the House and Senate, Sergeants at Arms employees are the doorkeepers that allow access to sessions of Congress. Since 1789, they have escorted U.S. presidents to deliver their State of the Union addresses, assisted with inauguration plans and overseen the protection of members of Congress. Their range of duties is as diverse as they are.

Preserving the Capitol 

The Architect of the Capitol maintains responsibility for preserving and upkeeping more than 16 million square feet of buildings and over 450 acres of land that make up Capitol Hill. Employees ensure power runs throughout the campus, run visitor services that provide free tours of the Capitol Building, and preserve the exterior architecture, interior art and masonry of the Capitol’s oldest chambers.

Mostly working behind the scaffolds, Architect of the Capitol workers also rolled up their sleeves and helped clean the Capitol after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and quickly shifted gears to prepare the complex for President Joe Biden’s inauguration two weeks later.

Help us recognize our Capitol workers

It is easy to overlook the contributions of the anonymous, unelected public servants who work in Congress and are not a part of the legislative process. They make the U.S. Capitol run smoothly regardless of which party is in power and no matter the results of the latest election, serving as stewards of the public trust and preserving a key national institution meant to serve the people.

This Public Service Recognition Week, help us recognize these public servants as they fulfill their duties largely out of the public eye. You can share your appreciation through social media posts and we also suggest taking a virtual campus tour to get a glimpse of the magnificent art and history maintained by the support staff on Capitol Hill.

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