Eye on NY: Auburn native eager to lead Consumer Product Safety Commission

Eye on NY: Auburn native eager to lead Consumer Product Safety Commission


The federal organization responsible for ensuring the safety of products in the marketplace likely will be led by an Auburn native. 

Former U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle was nominated by President Donald Trump this week to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Her nomination was sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration. The Senate must confirm Buerkle's appointment to the post. 

Buerkle joined the commission in 2013 after she was nominated by then-President Barack Obama. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recommended her for the role. 

"After having worked here for four years, I know the issues and I've developed a relationship with the stakeholders," Buerkle said in a phone interview Friday. "I think part of that was what led to the nomination and I've had tremendous support from my colleagues here on both sides of the aisle, which I'm also very grateful for that." 

In February — shortly after Trump was sworn in as the 45th president — Buerkle was named acting chair. But she's in an unusual situation because there are three Democrats on the five-member commission. (Buerkle is one of two Republican members.)

That means Buerkle, despite being acting chair, is technically in the minority. 

The commission won't remain that way for long. One Democrat's term will expire in October, which will allow Trump to nominate a Republican. That will give Buerkle and her GOP colleagues the majority. 

Until then, Buerkle doesn't view the split as a problem because of the relationship she has built with her colleagues. 

"I had support for the (2018 fiscal year) budget," she said. "I had support for a number of things because we work together and we figure things out. And so that seems to work.

"It's working OK right now and I really don't have any complaints. So much of what we do really is bipartisan. Safety should be bipartisan. It's not one party wants their kids to be safe and the other doesn't. It's pretty bipartisan. It's when you get into rule-making and you get into some of the ideologies that it gets a little less bipartisan. But that's not as often as you would think around here." 

One achievement Buerkle touted from her tenure as a commissioner is her willingness to travel across the country to meet with stakeholders. She's held meetings with consumer groups, hospitals, manufacturers and retailers. These meetings, she said, help her learn what issues affect a business or what consumers are concerned about. 

She recently visited Wisconsin to meet with portable generator manufacturers. The commission is in the process of developing a portable generator carbon monoxide rule. 

On Monday, she will travel to Connecticut to visit children's hospitals. She uses her trips to hospitals to highlight various initiatives, whether it's a pool safety campaign or educational materials about toy safety. 

Monday afternoon, she will meet with officials at the Lego headquarters in Connecticut. 

"The collaborative piece is really helpful because, as I say to all the stakeholders, we can accomplish our mission of safety much better and much more effectively if we partner with everyone, with all of the stakeholders, because they have a lot to offer," she said. "They're all experts in their field and they can help us." 

Buerkle was born and raised in Auburn. She was a registered nurse before graduating from Syracuse University law school. She worked for 12 years as an assistant New York state attorney general. 

In 2010, she ran for Congress. She defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei, by 648 votes. 

She served in Congress for one term. Maffei defeated her in 2012. 

While Buerkle no longer lives in central New York, she has maintained her ties to Cayuga County and the region. 

In August, she will return for one of the biggest weekends in the Auburn area. She will participate in the 40th annual Great Race on a team with one of her daughters. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


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