After 16 days on furlough, staff at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum are glad to be back to work and serving the public.
“It is good to be back in the office and be able to open our doors,” said Janlyn Slach, a public affairs specialist for the museum in West Branch.
The conclusion of the partial government shutdown ends an anxious period of uncertainty for federal employees.
Slach was one of about 16 employees at the museum who went back to work on Thursday after lawmakers struck a deal on Wednesday to fund the government until January 15 and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. The shutdown began on Oct. 1.
The end of the shutdown salvaged an event held on the day of Hoover’s death. At noon Sunday, the museum will hold a scaled-back grave site ceremony honoring Hoover. It is slated to feature a bagpipe and drum procession, and Allan Hoover III, the late president’s great-grandson.
Some in the area, such as staff who administer the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, never were out of work, but 13 staff members in Linn County and 15 in Johnson County were under threat of being furloughed if the shutdown continued.
“Everyone is relieved it’s not imminent right now, but we are cautious about the future,” said Kim Ott, coordinator of WIC in Linn County. “We are not at risk of losing jobs at the end of the month, but it still could happen down the road.”
Staff are now keeping an eye on Jan. 15.
Back in West Branch, employees are also back to work at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, which shares grounds with the museum. The historic site is part of the National Park Service, while the museum is a unit of the National Archives.
“In the first hour of us being open, we had a very high number of visitors coming through the door,” said Pete Swisher, superintendent for the historic site. “That is good for staff to see that people missed them and they wanted them open.”
Swisher said the 11 furloughed staff members were upbeat getting back to work, and have spent much of the time getting caught up.
“There’s 16 days of not mowing the grass,” he said.
The closure of the Hoover Museum forced the cancellation of 26 tours and approximately 650 visitors, many of whom were students on school field trips. Staff are still looking at whether rescheduling is possible.
Tom Schwartz, director of the museum, said the 16 days being closed meant they couldn’t book tours or make money at the museum shop, either. They typically serve 2,500 people during the first half of October, he said.