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President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate Davita Vance-Cooks as Public Printer (Special Commentary by Cary Sherburne)

Press release from the issuing company

WASHINGTON – The White House has released the following announcement:

Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:

Davita Vance-Cooks, Nominee for Public Printer, Government Printing Office

Davita Vance-Cooks is currently Deputy Public Printer of the Government Printing Office (GPO), a position she has held since December 2011. Ms. Vance-Cooks has served in a number of other roles at GPO since 2004, including Chief of Staff, Managing Director of the Publications and Information Sales Business Unit, and Deputy Managing Director of Customer Services. Prior to joining GPO, she was the General Manager at HTH Worldwide Insurance Services from 2001 to 2004. Previously, she served as the Vice President of Consumer Services at Digital Insurance from 2000 to 2001. From 1993 to 2000, Ms. Vance-Cooks served in several roles with NYLCare Health Plans of the Mid- Atlantic, which was purchased by Aetna during her tenure. Ms. Vance-Cooks received her B.S. from Tufts University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University.

White House announcement

Davita Vance-Cooks’ bio (PDF)


Commentary by Cary Sherburne

I found this announcement to be very surprising. Set aside all of the issues around her predecessor acting Public Printer, Mr. Boarman, about whom I wrote in depth during his failed nomination process (he has been acting as a consultant to GPO, so don't feel sorry about him being out of a job!).

The title of Public Printer of the United States refers to the official head of the Government Printing Office (GPO). Pursuant to 44 U.S.C. § 301, this officer must be nominated by the President of the United States and approved by the United States Senate. By law, The Public Printer must be highly skilled in the areas of bookbinding and printing to qualify for the post, although recent changes to the GPO's operating model have made skills in electronic information dissemination a more crucial criterion for appointment. While the electronic information dissemination skills are crucial, it still doesn't change the law, and with all due respect, Ms. Cooks does not meet the legal requirements for the job. Not even sure if her background meets the "crucial" electronic skills. There is a link to her bio in the press release. You decide.

Why make a nomination that doesn't conform to the law! I just don't understand the thought process the White House underwent here. Did you know that the only time a president has EVER visited the GPO was right after it was first established, and that visit was by President Abraham Lincoln. Maybe if the President took a couple hours out of his busy schedule to actually visit the place and talk to employees, there might be more insight into what the agency does and the role it plays.

OK, if today's requirements don't need a person with a practicing printing/bookbinding background, then change the law appropriate, and THEN nominate the appropriate person. How can Congress approve this nomination?

We will be watching to see what happens.


By Chuck Gehman on May 10, 2013

I think she's the default choice, and since the President doesn't care about this organization at all, and Congress only cares occasionally when a constituent complains, this will happen.


By Sheldon Merys on May 12, 2013

In my 35 years in this industry I've never seen lack of printing knowledge to stop any upper level management from obtaining his or her position.


By Andrew Gordon on May 14, 2013

It may be splitting hairs, but her bio does mention that in her role as SVP at NYLCare MidAtlantic Health Plan ... "among other duties, she was responsible for a digital print work center for production of variable data printing products." I am curious about "among other duties", because it sounds like the print shop was one of many departments that she oversaw. This may be the lawyers finding a "legal connection", but we could argue that if in fact she was responsible for a digital print work center that produced VDP products (sounds like a data center print shop), she may have a better background than those who have a more traditional print background. That experience is very relevant to the future of the GPO as they embrace new POD workflows and improve overall responsiveness. Nonetheless, the work she has done at GPO has added to her qualifications and she seems to have unique experiences to lead the organization. I look forward to learning more about her in the coming months. Cary, I hope you can land the "interview"!


By Joel Salus on May 15, 2013

Simply my opinion, but the GPO is an archaic agency. As a taxpayer, the main mission of the "Public Printer" should be to slash costs and squeeze waste out of the GPO's budget.

As most of you are aware, the GPO outsources a large volume of print work to private-sector companies. If you've ever looked at GPO Bid (Program) documents, it's likely you are aware that most Program bid documents call out one of five different "quality levels" (1 being the highest, 5 being the lowest.) For most GPO Program procurements, the GPO typically calls for Quality levels above 4 or 5. A substantial volume of the GPO's print work is for documents intended for "government agency - government employee use". Why in the world are higher quality levels necessary, at all, for documents that are going to be used by government agency personnel? Calling for those higher quality levels is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. Sure, calling for higher quality levels, rather than just one "low quality level" keeps printers (who do work outsourced by the GPO) happy, for printers benefit from that. But, that runs counter to the best interests of taxpayers. GPO specs haven't been re-written for years, it's always been "same old, same old, business as usual, job-justification", hence the reason why I used the word "archaic" to describe the GPO.

Given advances in digital technology (and the use of computers, tablets, readers and the Internet), far fewer government documents should actually find their way to "hard-copy" print. To me, another priority for the "Public Printer" should be to implement practices, policies and procedures designed to substantially reduce what gets printed to hard copy. While that, too, might not benefit printers who do GPO outsourced work, that will benefit taxpayers.

We ALL complain about the size and cost of the Federal Government. But what do we, members of the printing community, actually do to encourage government agencies to reduce costs and slash waste. When was the last time YOU reached out to the head of a government agency, or to your elected representatives, to demand that they stop wasting your tax dollars, when doing so might ultimately negatively affect your printing businesses?

Rather than see a present GPO-insider move up to the post of Public Printer, I'd rather see someone from the outside in that position, someone who will bring to the GPO a serious "efficiency/productivity increase" mentality and a very serious "cost-slashing" mindset.

One last thing, .... actually, an example of a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. One Fed Gov agency (and it wasn't the GPO) recently completed a procurement for an "oil portrait" of the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant (or maybe is was the deputy commandant). A contract was issued to an artist, at a cost of around $18,000. Prior to the award of that contract, I e-mailed the purchasing agent (given as the contact for that agency) to explain that a digital color print on canvas (from a photo of the Commandant) would likely cost no more than $300. Of course, I did not receive any reply. Government procurement people, GPO or elsewhere, don't worry about what they spend .... because "it ain't their money".

If Ms. Davita Vance-Cooks is appointed to the post of Public Printer, I hope that she will take to heart the fact that her major goal should be what I've pointed out in this post.



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