A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 13, 2013
“Personnel is policy”

’Personnel is policy” is a saying used to describe the personnel that a new executive puts in place. The saying became popular in 1981, after Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory and during his first year in office. Reagan’s conservative supporters wanted to rid the government of personnel from the Jimmy Carter administration, but they also didn’t want personnel from the moderate Republican administration of Gerald Ford. However, Reagan’s conservative supporters—long out of power in Washington—didn’t have the government experience needed to fill positions.

“Personnel is policy” has been cited in print since at least November 1981. Personnel Is Policy: Why the New President Must Take Control of the Executive Branch (2001) was written by Robert E Moffit of the Heritage Foundation.


27 November 1981, The Morning Union (Springfield, MA), “Critique finds Reagan administration wanting” by M. Stanton Evans, pg. 36, col. 2:
WASHINGTON—Most of the problems afflicting the Reagan administration these days stem from an oft-neglected rule of government: Personnel is policy.

1 February 1982, Seattle (WA) Times, “Reagan aide has to run hard to stay in place” by Paul West (Dallas Times Herald), pg. A3, col. 4:
“Personnel is policy,” says Richard Viguerie, Conservative Digest publisher and a Baker critic. “The White House is always looking for people who have experience in government and Reagan people don’t have (previous) White House experience.”

19 February 1982, The Register (Santa Ana, CA), “Right-wingers complain moderates captured Reagan” by Saul Friedman (Knight-Ridder Newspapers), pg. C2, col. 1:
“Personnel is policy because you can’t have Reaganism without Reaganites,” said Richard Viguerie, a conservative publisher and mail-order fund-raiser for right-wing causes. “Unless the personnel changes, we’e going to have policy different from that Ronald Reagan promised us.”

28 February 1982, Boston (MA) Globe, “Right wing rumbles at Reagan” by Curtis Wilkie, pg. 1:
Asked the other day if he was more concerned with personnel than policy, Lofton (John D. Lofton Jr.—ed.) said, “We believe personnel is policy.”

Google News Archive
4 December 1992, Nevada (MO) Daily Mail, ‘Bill Clinton makes transition diffeently” by Ben Wattenberg, pg. 4, col. 4:
The standard Washington view of transition time is: “personnel is policy.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Personnel is policy : why the new president must take control of the executive branch
Author: Robert E Moffit
Publisher: Washington, D.C. : Heritage Foundation, [2001]
Series: Heritage Foundation backgrounder, no. 1403.
Edition/Format: Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
‘Personnel Is Policy’ Sadly, true.
Author: David Frum
Publisher: [New York, etc., National Review, etc.]
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: National review. 57, no. 19, (2005): 17
Database: ArticleFirst
Other Databases: British Library Serials

New York (NY) Times
Change Is Landing in Old Hands
By JOHN HARWOOD
Published: November 22, 2008
(...)
That breezy formulation disregards the received wisdom of Pennsylvania Avenue. For years, Washington insiders have used the phrase “personnel is policy” for the assumption that the prior loyalties and political tastes of a president’s cabinet and White House staff heavily influence what those appointees are eager, or able, to get done. 

OCLC WorldCat record
Personnel Is Policy: Schools, Student Groups, and the Right to Discriminate
Author: George B Davis
Publisher: Lexington, Va. [School of Law, Washington and Lee University]
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: Washington and Lee law review. 24, no. 4, (2009): 1793
Database: ArticleFirst

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, March 13, 2013 • Permalink