After Six Years, A Farewell to Advocacy

Thomas Sullivan

Some things never cease to amaze me. The same humbleness that I felt upon my arrival at the Office of Advocacy over six years ago still exists as I say good-bye. I am in awe of the professionals who make up the office and who have supported me as chief counsel. And, I feel blessed to have had the trust, confidence, and support of small businesses throughout the country to advocate on their behalf in state capitals and in Washington, D.C.

My travels brought me to Boise, Newark, San Marcos, New Orleans, Stillwater, and dozens of other cities and towns that owe their economic strength the small business. It has been an honor to have listened to the hopes, dreams, and experiences of entrepreneurs with the hope that their opinions would influence government policies. And people who took the time to tell me about the struggle to succeed on Main Street have made a difference.

The chief counsel's position is simillar to any counsel's job: to be a mouthpiece. In my case, the Office of Advocacy was a megaphone. Through research on job creation, innovation, business wealth and survival, and the barriers that impede economic growth, the Office Advocacy added data and analysis to the stories told by men and women small business owners.  Attorneys in the Office of Advocacy added strength to small business concerns by using the Regulatory Flexibility Act and convincing agencies to be careful before imposing new mandates on small business.

Our success in voicing the views of small business through the megaphone that is the Office of Advocacy has always depended on the activism of the small business community. I know that chambers of commerce, trade and membership organizations, and individual small business owners would not have wasted their time engaging a government office if they were not confident of the results. The Office of Advocacy is famous for its responsiveness, its professionalism, and its ability to take up the small business flag, wave it, and pursue its causes. The greatest compliment was how the Office of Advocacy was continually swamped with requests for involvement. From health care, to taxes, to land-use restrictions, to energy, small businesses sought help from the Office of Advocacy. And the office delivered. Regional advocates carried the stories of local entrepreneurs through the halls of state capitols and those same stories were with me when I pressed the case for small business at the White House and in Congress.

Type "small business" and "advocacy" into any search engine and the Office of Advocacy's involvement covers the computer screen. The ability of so small an office to have such a visible impact is amazing. And it has depended entirely on the Office of Advocacy's ability to amplify the message of over 26 million small businesses through a megaphone.

My job was not always about hard work. There were numerous times when I could not believe how lucky I was to be chief counsel. Throwing out the first pitch surrounded by my beloved Red Sox during Small Business Night at Fenway Park was one of those times. And there were many times when the honor of serving on the President's team was emotionally overwhelming. Visiting with Senators Elizabeth Dole and Bob Dole and service-disabled veterans were among these deeply moving experiences.

The next chief counsel will enjoy fun times and take on tough challenges. There will be new ways to wield the Office of Advocacy's megaphone, and I am humbled to be part of the office's distinguished history.

Thomas M. Sullivan, Chief Counsel for Advocacy
Copyright 2008

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