Square Peg, Round Hole?
By all accounts, Sargeantâ€”former entrepreneur, researcher at the Small Business Innovation Research program manager turned venture capitalist–is enormously talented. The one thing heâ€™s not, though, is an attorney. This deeply concerns Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), ranking member on the Senate Small Business Committee, so for now, Sargeant is on hold.
The chief counselâ€™s primary responsibility is to be the regulatory watchdog for small businesses and to protect their interests during the legislative and rulemaking process. Being an attorney isnâ€™t statutorily required, but since the passage of the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which aims to reduce the regulatory burdens on small businesses, many believe itâ€™s become increasingly apparent that it should be.
So why nominate Sargeant in the first place? â€śGreat question,â€ť said a senior Snowe aide, speaking anonymously. â€śHe has a tremendous background and experience, but was miscast for this position. Or, maybe they want to change the officeâ€™s focus from its core function to a research function, which is only part of the job.â€ť
The real answer, according to a former SBA official with close ties to the agency, is that agency administrator Karen Mills is the one who chose Sargeant, whom she knows from her venture capitalist past. â€śSargeantâ€™s been offered other positions at SBA but hasnâ€™t accepted,â€ť he added, because Mills is really pushing this nomination.
According to conventional wisdom, it wonâ€™t move until the healthcare debate has been settled, and how it turns out is anyoneâ€™s guess. â€śThis is unchartered territory,â€ť Snoweâ€™s aide said.