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Bob Tapella gives his advice to the next Public Printer and reviews the progress and transformation of the GPO

Published on April 19, 2010

Interviewer:  Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Bob Tupelo, who is the 25th Public Printer of the United States. 

Bob Tupelo:  Hello, Cary.  Good to see you. 

Interviewer:  Welcome.  So happy to see you here.  

Bob Tupelo:  It’s always a pleasure. 

Interviewer:  You know, we see this EFI logo behind us, we’re at EFI Connect, you just delivered a great key note and we’re hoping to have a copy of that to be able to post.  So there’s lots of great information about the GPO in there that I think you’ll help us with that. 

Bob Tupelo:  Absolutely. 

Interviewer:  And gee, we talked a while back about what happens, as you came into office, what advice would you give, or what would you say to the next Public Printer.  Well, now I guess you have an opportunity to really think about that.  And we kind of new when there was a new President that there might be a new Public Printer and now we know that’s going to happen.  Maybe you can talk a little bit about that whole process. 

Bob Tupelo:  Well you know, it’s an interesting process.  It has been an honor and a privilege to serve both President Bush and President Obama as well as to lead the men and women of the Government Printing Office.  The President has selected, or made his intention to nominate Bill Boreman to the 26th Public Printer.  I’ve known Bill for a number of years and I couldn’t think of a better choice.  Bill once worked at GPO and event though his career took him elsewhere; he was always both a champion and a friend of the Government Printing Office.  And I hold him in just the highest personal regard.  I guess if I were to think of what I were to say to him, and in fact, I have told this to him because we spoke on Friday, is you know Bill, and it’s actually the same question you asked me when I became Public Printer, what do I want to say to the next guy.  And it’s, I leave you a vibrant organization on which you can build and expand.  It’s kind of an interesting process.  When I was speaking in the keynote, I talked about GPO celebrating its sesquicentennial, 150 years.  Public Printers come and go. 

Interviewer:  I’m glad you defined that because I had no idea was a sesquicentennial was. 

Bob Tupelo:  You can’t go from 1860 to 2010? 

Interviewer:  Well I can do that. 

Bob Tupelo:  But public printers come and go.  I’m number 25, Bill will be number 26, Bruce James was number 24.  But the institution itself lives on.  And it’s not about the public printer, it’s about our roles and responsibility and our mission to keep America informed about the workings of its government, to make the documents of our democracy widely available to the public and kept in perpetuity.  And that lives on beyond any individual. 

Interviewer:  Well, under both Bruce James and you, I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing the former public printer, but I had the pleasure of spending a fair amount of time with both you and Bruce.  There’s been an amazing transformation of the GPO, and I give you guys a lot of credit for what you’ve done in really a relatively short period of time. 

Bob Tupelo:  Well, thank you.  I don’t know, I guess the way that I would say this is that if you look at what’s taking place in the industry in general, we’ve kept pace with the industry. 

Interviewer:  Yeah, which is unusual for the government.  Sorry. 

Bob tupelo:  It is unusual for the government perhaps.  But remember, while we are a government agency, we’re basically the equivalent of a wholly owned government business because our direct appropriations represent less than 13% of GPO revenue.  The rest of it comes from selling products and services to other federal agencies.  And so we’re like a wholly owned government business.  And so we have to be nimble if we wish to not only survive, but as I talked about during my tenure as public printer, I want GPO to thrive and I believe we are.  And I believe that Bill wants GPO to thrive as well and so I’m actually looking forward to seeing where he’s going to take the agency over the next few years. 

Interviewer:  And so maybe you can just talk briefly about what the transition – you’re going to help him with a seamless transition, but what is that transition process? 

Bob Tupelo:  Cary, I wish I knew.  I can talk basic process.  The President announced his intention to nominate, and then the President would send the nomination down to the Senate, the Senate then has to provide advice and consent, which means a confirmation.  And that will be referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; there’ll likely be a hearing.  And then the full Senate needs to vote on it, and then the President can then make the appointment.  The process could take anywhere from a month to a year.  I mean, it’s –

Interviewer:  Yeah, they have a lot on their plate right now. 

Bob Tupelo:  They have a lot on their plate, and I’ve been in Washington long enough to know that I am certainly never going to question or judge the pace of the United States Senate.  And I have no idea how long it’s going to take.  I hope Bill has a smooth confirmation because I think it’s in the best interest the Government Printing Office, and more importantly our 2,300 employees. 

Interviewer:  Right, right.  And what’s next for you? 

Bob Tupelo:  I’m not sure.  I hope to take a vacation, maybe. 

Interviewer:  That will be nice. 

Bob Tupelo:            I really don’t know, but I’ll tell you, I’m young.  And we were talking about that earlier, and you know, my life has been a whole series of really interesting and exciting chapters.  And I’m actually very excited about what this next chapter means.  And I don’t know what it means, but now I can start thinking about it.  And so I actually find that very exciting.  

Interviewer:  Well we’ll be interested to follow the two prongs of the.  What happens with the nomination and the ultimate transition into the 26th Public Printer and how he handles things.  And we’ll also be interested in seeing what you do in your new life.

Bob Tupelo:  Maybe I’ll become the next WhatTheyThink.com, commentator.  How about that Cary? 

Interviewer:  Oh wow!  I’m in danger.  My diva position is in danger.  Thank you so much Bob. 

Bob Tupelo:  Hey, good to see you Cary.  

Interviewer:  Good to see you. 

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