My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

The 2010 Census: It’s In “His Hands”

The following report comes from MyTwoCensus Washington, D.C. correspondent Dominique Kelly who was present for yesterday’s swearing-in-ceremony of Robert Groves as Director of the U.S. Census Bureau:

It’s the first of many long days to come for the newly sworn in director of the U.S. Census Bureau, Dr. Robert M. Groves.

With his wife, Cynthia, and son, Christopher, by his side, Groves, known to many at the Census Bureau as Bob, stood proudly reciting the oath that was the final step in his long journey to become the 23rd director of the U.S. Census Bureau.  Groves’ previous post was at the University of Michigan Survey Research center and the University of Maryland’s Joint Program in Survey Methodology.  Although Groves’ duties as director commenced on July 13, 2009, today is his first official step in leading “one of the important and most difficult challenges,” the 2010 decennial count, as explained by Rebecca Blank, Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs.

Blank rendered the opening remarks where she expressed her joy of having Dr. Groves as the new director.  “I’m absolutely delighted to have Bob Groves here as the Census director,” said Blank.  Blank and Groves are long time colleagues, having worked together for more than ten years at the University of Michigan.  Blank expects to work closely with Groves and “develop a shared vision of what the Census is and what it can be,” as she eagerly expressed during her speech.

As Census employees, distinguished guests, and media personnel anxiously awaited the speech and words of comfort and encouragement from Groves, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, eased the restless audience with humor by saying, “I especially want to thank them [former U.S. Census Bureau directors] for not saying anything to scare Bob away.”

However, Groves is no stranger to the Census Bureau. He served as Associate Director of the Bureau for Statistical Design, Methodology, and Standards from 1990-1992.  Locke and others agree that the job of directing the 2010 Census is very challenging and it calls for a well seasoned, highly noted individual to take on the task. “The job demanded someone of outstanding academic credentials and management skills, and as it turns out, a lot of patience,” said Locke during his introduction of Groves.

Groves began his speech by intimately speaking to the Census Bureau staff, and telling them words he feels they don’t hear very often: “Thank you for what you do.”  He went on to make a promise to the staff, by saying that while he is in office the Census Bureau will have a culture of mutual respect, while celebrating their mission to serve the American public with the most cost efficient, highest quality statistical information they can possibly produce.

Groves expressed that one of his many concerns is that 45% of the Census Bureau staff is eligible for retirement next year, which we all know is a crucial year for the Census Bureau.  Although that means he has a well experienced staff, he is worried about what will happen in the near future.  Groves urged the long-time employees to seek out the “rookies “in the Census Bureau and teach them what they’ve learned to do so well. Not only does Groves want the veterans to reach out to the younger people, but the “rookies” must reach out to the veterans too.  “As a legacy to your career here, take a little time to pass on your experience to those that you’re going to leave behind. Pass on the wisdom you have.  To those who are new seek out those wise elders, listen to them, and ask them questions about their experiences.  Learn from them actively,” said Groves.

Groves went on to make several statements addressing the usual difficulties that lie with completing a massive count of the American population, and encouraged that when mass amounts of people work together to achieve a common goal everything can happen, and it normally does.  Groves admitted, “Although the product of the Census can be statistically beautifully in its integrity and quality, the process of producing the product is always complicated, messy, and wrought with difficulty and temporary setbacks.”  Groves insisted that his staff act on the difficulties and setbacks with the highest levels of professionalism.

He closed his speech by speaking directly to the long time staff who believes they have heard it all before, and may now be a little skeptical, by insisting that they think back to their earlier years at the Census Bureau and how they felt about their jobs and expediting their tasks when they were new.

“I need you to rekindle that enthusiasm, because we need your ideas,” said Groves.

Robert Groves is aware that he has a lot of work ahead of him, but just as other’s are confident in him, he is confident in his staff, federal statistical agencies as whole, and members of other organizations that provide advice to the Census. Groves looks at all of them combined as a closeknit group of professionals and leaders.

“We need all of these people and the people they work with,” emphasized Groves.

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