Congress

Merdon out at AOC, Thomas Carroll named new acting architect

Search continues for permanent Architect of the Capitol

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon resigned, and Thomas J. Carroll has been named to lead the agency. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Christine Merdon is out as acting Architect of the Capitol, and Thomas J. Carroll has been named to lead the agency on an acting basis as the search for a permanent AOC continues.

In an internal notice to AOC employees, Merdon said she had accepted a job outside of the agency.

“An exciting opportunity for me has recently presented itself, and I have decided to accept the offer. As a result, I will be transferring my duties as Acting Architect of the Capitol to Tom Carroll on Saturday, August 17 in accordance with agency policy,” Merdon wrote.

Merdon took the helm of the agency in late 2018 when Steven T. Ayers stepped down. She joined the AOC in 2010 as deputy AOC and chief operating officer.

[IG Report: Some members of Congress sexually harassed night-shift custodians]

Carroll, who took over the acting Architect of the Capitol job on Saturday, has worked for AOC since 2009, when he was hired as deputy superintendent for House office buildings. In 2o11 he became the agency’s chief financial officer and was promoted to assistant to the architect in 2018.

He served 22 years in the Air Force and has a Master of Science degree in administration from Central Michigan University and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the University of Vermont.

Carroll’s role leading the agency is in an acting capacity because the search for a permanent AOC is ongoing. The search is run by a 14-person commission that will recommend candidates to the president. The group is made up of the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, majority and minority leaders of both chambers, and the chairs and ranking members of the House Administration and Senate Rules committees and the Appropriations panels in both chambers. They hired executive search firm JDG Associates early in 2019.

[Ready to manage a world-famous building and grapple with a billion-dollar backlog? This job’s for you]

The next architect will be just the third to be selected under a 1989 statute that not only established a 10-year term for the post but also laid out a search and nomination procedure in which the bipartisan, bicameral commission of congressional leaders forwards three names to the president, who then appoints one of the finalists, subject to Senate confirmation.

Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, told CQ Roll Call earlier this summer that there is a slate of candidates, and the timeline for moving forward is dependent on finalists’ background checks being completed.

The next architect of the Capitol will take on daunting projects, including the 10-year, $752 million renewal of the Cannon House Office Building, improvements to the Russell Senate Office Building, a huge restoration of the Senate’s underground garages and preservation of the Capitol’s exterior.

He or she will also have to manage workforce management issues that have become public in recent years. The agency is set to be in district court over discrimination cases, and congressional oversight panels are expecting changes to staffing and workforce practices following a report from the the Government Accountability Office in March. 

An April report from the AOC inspector general on sexual harassment within the agency included findings that members of Congress allegedly sexually harassed night shift custodial staff while they cleaned their offices and that the Architect of the Capitol has no unified system for effectively tracking complaints and resolutions of sexual harassment cases. Those issues will be on Carroll’s agenda until a new AOC is named. 

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