Although McGuire says he's more comfortable behind the scenes than in the spotlight, I note that he already appears to be at ease in his new role. Like a good chief of staff, he gives his boss the credit. "He's got great equanimity," McGuire says of McConnell. "When the person at the top is calm, it makes it easier for everybody else to be calm."
— Laura Ryan
Abigail Ross Hopper
Abigail Ross Hopper is the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the Department of the Interior. (Chet Susslin)Oceans and Energy Management gets a new boss.
You're never not a lawyer once you've been one," Abigail Ross Hopper tells me when I meet her at her fifth-floor office at the Interior Department. "I still think in six-minute billing increments."
Last month, Hopper became the new director of the Bureau of Oceans and Energy Management, and it's not hard to see why she was tapped for a job that includes both putting out political fires and drawing up complex agreements. When the former divorce attorney is performing triage on the many demands she faces, she says, there are two operative calculations for her: Who's paying me to do this? and Is this a really good use of my time? "There are many things where I've said, if it takes more than five minutes to do it, don't do it."
Hopper's pragmatism is accompanied by tastes for efficiency and Dunkin Donuts coffee. (She has two large Dunkin Donuts mugs on the shelf above the photos of her kids and her wedding, and she owns a Dunkin Donuts hat.) She eschews gab, telling me that a lot of the position is simply "getting projects accomplished." For now, that means drafting and executing the agency's plan to sell leases for oil and gas development in federal waters from 2017 to 2022 — a matter that became more controversial just as she arrived, when the Interior Department announced its plan to open up vast swaths of the East Coast to oil and gas drilling while protecting parts of the Arctic.
The Prince George's County, Maryland, native, 43, comes from a family of public servants — her parents were both Clinton appointees, and her brother, Justin Ross, served for years as a delegate in the Maryland statehouse. But, at least initially, she didn't follow in their footsteps. "When I went to law school and joined a large law firm," Hopper recalls, "I was pretty sure my parents were going to be mad that I went to work for the private sector."
She worked for roughly a decade in divorce and corporate law, eventually specializing in merger and investment counseling. But after she had her third child, she says, her desire for a better "work-life balance" led her to a job as deputy general counsel to the Maryland Public Service Commission, a post that kick-started her career in government.
Hopper served as the director of the Maryland Energy Administration and as an energy adviser to then-Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley before jumping to the BOEM. The agency she now leads grew out of the Minerals Management Service, which was implicated in numerous scandals, most memorably the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill, after which its duties were divided among three new agencies: the BOEM, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.