Dave Ottalini 301-405-4076
By Lauren Brown
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It was a frigid January day in 1993 when Steve Kerrigan, then a Maryland senior, and several friends hopped the Metro into D.C. to watch Bill Clinton take the oath of office.
Twenty years later, he's running the inaugural ceremonies for the president of the United States.
Kerrigan '93 (right) is president and chief executive officer of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, overseeing a flurry of events that will take place Jan. 19-21, including a National Day of Service, President Barack Obama's swearing-in, a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and two official balls.
It's his second go-around in this position: He also organized Obama's first inaugural in 2009, when he managed a staff of 450, a $55 million budget and 17,500 volunteers.
"It's a great honor and quite exciting to go to work on behalf of your president," he says. "Many facets go into the planning of an inauguration. The most important, we tell people, is that we're focusing on a great moment in American history."
Kerrigan credits his Maryland experience for his entire career trajectory. In his first week on campus, a fellow student encouraged the government and politics major to apply for an internship on Capitol Hill. Kerrigan secured a post in the office of then-Sen. Ted Kennedy, which he kept all for four years at Maryland before becoming Kennedy's political director, Massachusetts policy director and director of scheduling and advance.
Kerrigan later served as chief of staff for former Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly and as chief of staff and senior adviser for the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He was CEO of the convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September, spending 18 months on site selection and another 18 executing an event that drew 6,000 delegates, 15,000 media representatives, and party supporters and leaders, including the president and vice president.
That event was practically puny, however, compared to a presidential inaugural. Obama's 2009 swearing-in ceremony was the largest event ever to take place in Washington, drawing an estimated 1.8 million people.
"That sea of humanity gave me great pause and great pride in what our country is to the entire world," Kerrigan recalls. "It was a great example of the peaceful transition of power and what democracy is all about and how our nation can move forward after an election." Kerrigan again has had only 11 weeks to nail down details as mundane (but necessary) as the procurement of portable toilets and as serious as transportation logistics and security, working with the National Park Service, Congress, the military and the District of Columbia government.
One of the highlights of the events, he says, only half-joking: The Mighty Sound of Maryland will perform in the Jan. 21 parade. "I've made a lot of phone calls, and one of the proudest ones was to call the band director and let him know that a fellow Terp was inviting him."