Welcome to Weise Wednesday! Every week we will share a brief Q&A with the former U.S. Commissioner of Customs, Mr. George Weise. If you have questions, we encourage you to send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Q: In last week’s blog, you talked about the transition in leadership at CBP resulting from the change in Administration.  Can you describe your personal transition experience when you were appointed Commissioner?

A:  That was a very long time ago, but the situation was similar because a new President was taking office to succeed a President from a different party.  In my case, it was President Bill Clinton who was succeeding President George Bush.

Traditionally all political appointees are expected to submit their resignation letters whenever a new Administration takes office, even if the incoming President is of the same political party as the incumbent.  There are many instances when a new President allows political appointees to remain in their positions (for at least a limited period of time) after an election when the incumbent party prevails.  However, that rarely happens when a new party is taking office, and it is expected that virtually all political appointees will vacate their positions immediately.

The first Presidential appointment

Looking back at my situation in 1993, it is interesting to note that, due to a statutory change enacted before my nomination, I was the first Commissioner of Customs to be a Presidential appointment, subject to Senate confirmation. 

Prior to that, the position of Customs Commissioner was appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury, in close consultation with the President. But there was no congressional approval process.  Today, of course, CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Treasury Department, and the position of Commissioner continues to be a Presidential appointment with Senate confirmation.

The transition to Commissioner of Customs

I began my quest to become the Commissioner of Customs shortly after President Clinton was elected in November 1992.  From that period, through the end of February 1993, there was a great deal of interaction with the Clinton Transition Team, which ultimately led to an interview in early March with Secretary of Treasury Lloyd Bentsen.  At the conclusion of that interview, the Secretary indicated that he would recommend my nomination to President Clinton.  Shortly thereafter, I received the official nomination from the President. 

Pending my confirmation, I was given a position as a “Special Advisor” and took up residence in the basement of the Customs headquarters building, where I began my preparation for the upcoming confirmation hearings before the Senate Finance Committee.  During this period, I maintained a very low profile to the outside world, but had extensive internal meetings with the career leadership of Customs and absorbed as much information as I could about the agency. 

On May 10, 1993, I testified before the Senate Finance Committee.  Later that day, my nomination was favorably reported to the floor.  Two days later on May 12, 1993, the Senate unanimously approved my nomination to be Commissioner of Customs, and I was sworn into office later that day. 

As someone who started his career more than 20 years earlier as an entry level Customs officer in the port of Baltimore, it was clearly the thrill of a lifetime to return to Customs as the Commissioner.