Those decisions mean balancing competing interests. “Are we going to put more money into national parks, highways, defense, foreign aid, medical research, education?” asks Kennedy. “And how do you make sure the program is doing what it is supposed to be doing?”
Kennedy says he was proud to assist Hatfield as the senator “argued for a sound fiscal policy and resisted short-sighted efforts to make steep reductions in education, health research, and a variety of domestic programs.” According to Gerry Frank, former chief of staff for Sen. Hatfield, the contribution was significant.
“Keith Kennedy is one of the best, most loyal and experienced leaders in the history of the U.S. Senate,” says Frank.
In 1997, Kennedy left government to work with former Sen. Howard Baker and his Washington law firm—Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. After seven years, he had the opportunity in 2003 to return to the Senate to serve in the office of Sergeant at Arms, an organization with more than 800 employees and an annual budget of several hundred million dollars.
Elected by the Senate, the sergeant-at-arms serves as chief security officer and is responsible for preserving order in the Senate chamber, galleries and Senate side of the Capitol.
After 9/11, the office demanded a director experienced in law enforcement. Bill Pickle, a career Secret Service agent, became the sergeant-at-arms, and Kennedy, who brought years of administrative experience, was named deputy. He assisted in planning the state funeral of former President Ronald Reagan, and escorted Mikail Gorbachev, former president of the U.S.S.R., when he paid his last respects. In 2005, Kennedy helped establish protocol for the second inauguration of President George W. Bush.
Kennedy left that post in January 2005 to serve once more as majority staff director of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Serving with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss), he was part of “months of effort to get federal relief for the people of the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”
In September 2006, Kennedy retired after 28 years of government service and returned to the Washington, D.C., office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, & Berkowitz, one of the 100 largest firms in the United States, as managing director and senior public policy advisor.