Last modified on May 1, 2020, at 18:39

Jerry Climer

Jerome Francis "Jerry" Climer

(Political consultant, founder of
The Congressional Institute and
The Public Governance Institute)​

Born April 25, 1941​
Arkansas, USA

Resident of Edenton
Chowan County, North Carolina

Political Party Republican nominee for Arkansas secretary of state, 1972​
Spouse Mary Ann Climer​

Greta E. Climer
Matthew A. Climer​

Jerome Francis "Jerry" Climer (born April 25, 1941), is the founder of two Washington, D.C.-based think tanks, The Congressional Institute and The Public Governance Institute, which were established in 1987 and 2001, respectively. His field of expertise is public administration, a branch of political science, as well as public policy and issues development.​


An Arkansas native, Climer graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a Bachelor of Science degree in public administration. He came to Washington in 1967 to join the staff of newly elected Republican U.S. Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt of Arkansas' 3rd congressional district. Later, he was an assistant to the United States Secretary of Agriculture. From 1979 to 1985, he was chief of staff to then U.S. Representative Edwin Ruthvin Bethune, Jr., of White County, a former FBI agent, and only the second Arkansas Republican to have been elected to Congress since Reconstruction.​

Late in 1970, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, shortly before he left the office, appointed Climer to fill a vacancy as the clerk of Pulaski County, which includes the capital city of Little Rock.​

Race for secretary of state, 1972

In 1972, at the age of thirty-one, Climer was the Republican candidate for Arkansas Secretary of State. He was defeated in the general election by the popular Democratic incumbent Kelly Bryant, who did not finish the last term to which he was elected. In his campaign, Climer alleged that Bryant's office was "full of political hacks," a situation which, he maintained, caused the legitimate employees to be "overworked". Climer further accused Bryant of showing favoritism for certain printing firms in the awarding of state contracts, failing to preserve vital state records, and mishandling petitions filed with the office. Climer had the endorsement of the Pine Bluff Commercial in Jefferson County. Bryant, however, was so confident of success, considering the Democratic hegemony of Arkansas, that he could ignore the upstart challenge from Climer.​

Climer toured the state in a motor home dubbed the "Climermobile." He stopped at newspaper offices, radio stations, television stations, and other public forum s to make his name better known and present his proposals for the secretary of state's office.[1] His campaign assistant, Dan Durning, who met Climer at the University of Arkansas, reflected on the campaign forty years later in his blog,

Climer gave it his best, and I was impressed with his campaign skills and his dedication to the task. Though I am moderately cynical by nature, Climer was not. He seemed driven by the conviction that he could do a much better job as secretary of state than the man he was running against (Kelly Bryant). Though the odds were against him winning the election, Climer spent time near the end the campaign discussing with me what steps he should take immediately after taking office to improve its operations.

I am not sure how much of an asset I was to Climer. He was understandably reluctant to have me too visible when he was out shaking hands. In 1972, longish hair apparently put off small town voters. In Harrison, the chairman of the county party organization pointedly invited me to stay in the Climermobile when Jerry went to meet with party supporters to make a brief speech.[1]

As expected, Bryant won with 366,079 votes (59.4 percent) to Climer's 250,532 (40.6 percent). Climer led in Pulaski County, where he had been clerk, with 62.4 percent, carried traditionally Republican Searcy County and received more than 48 percent in Washington County, which includes the University of Arkansas.[2]

All the Arkansas Republican statewide candidates were defeated that year, including the gubernatorial nominee Len Blaylock of Perry County, Ken Coon for lieutenant governor, Edwin Ruthvin Bethune, Jr., for attorney general, and the veterinarian Wayne Babbitt for the United States Senate against the incumbent John McClellan. Nevertheless, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon became the first member of his party since U.S. Grant to win the electoral votes of traditionally Democratic Arkansas.​[1]

Policy and information expertise

After the 1972 Arkansas campaign, Climer worked as the chief legislative assistant to Congressman Tom Coleman of Missouri and was thereafter from 1979 to 1985 the executive assistant to Representative Ed Bethune. In 1984, Bethune ran for the U.S. Senate but was defeated by the Democrat David Pryor, despite Ronald W. Reagan's victory in Arkansas. From 1985 to 1990, Climer was employed on the leadership staff of U.S. Representative Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan, then the head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.[1]

In the late 1970s, he began the study of the process of managing organizational change with Daryl Conner, the founder and chief executive officer of Conner Partners. The two co-authored Leading Public-Sector Change, a textbook in public administration.​ He is also the co-author of a book, Surviving Inside Congress, published in 2009, with a second edition in 2011.[1]

Climer is a policy and information expert and is enlisted by governmental, media, and private-sector organizations. He frequently briefs legislators and public-policy researchers on policy options, consensus building, and leadership.​

Two congressional institutes

The Congressional Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Virginia, ranks among the top sponsors of congressional travel between January 2000 and June 2005, during which time it disbursed more than $830,000 on almost 1,000 trips. The group primarily funds travel for Republican lawmakers and their staff members. Its sister organization, the Public Governance Institute, holds bipartisan retreats primarily for House members; in one period, the institute found that Congress spent more than $135,000 on about 120 congressional trips.

The Congressional Institute organizes at least one retreat for congressional Republican leaders each year, and another for all Senate and House Republicans at places such as the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. After 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush was the usual keynote speaker for another retreat called "Congress for Tomorrow." By bringing members together to discuss policy and governance issues, the group helps lawmakers to do their work more effectively, said Climer. But the institute does not specifically advocate potential solutions to public problems.[1]

The institute is financed by such corporations as Lockheed Martin, Merck, Verizon, and Altria, each of which contributes $25,000 annually. Thirteen of the fifteen members of the board of directors are registered D.C. lobbyists. Board members include Gary Andres of Dutko Worldwide, one of Washington's largest lobbying firms; Barbara Morris, a lobbyist for Verizon; and Daniel Meyer of the Kenneth Duberstein Group, which has among its lobbying clients General Motors, Time Warner, and Comcast, all of which have been donors to the Congressional Institute.​

At the Public Governance Institute, Climer was named by Trent Lott, then the majority leader of the United States Senate to a 21-member federal government panel, "Helping Enhance the Livelihood of People," known by the acronym HELP. The Commission focused on developing strategies to maximize the efficiency of United States foreign aid and filed its report with the President and the Congress in December 2007.[1]

In 2007, Climer announced his retirement from the Congressional Institute. He was succeeded by Mark Strand, who had been the chief of staff to former U.S. Senator Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican who was defeated for a full term on November 7, 2006. Climer continued as an advisor through 2008. Together with the chairman of the institute, Mike Johnson, and his successor, Mark Strand, Climer coauthored Surviving Inside Congress: A guide for prospective, new and not-so-new Congressional staff - and a guided tour for those who just want to learn how it all works.

Retired in North Carolina

After retiring and relocating in 2007 to Edenton in Chowan County in eastern North Carolina,[1] Climer established Policy Implementation Consultants, which offers consulting services for public officials. He was appointed in 2009 by North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, a Democrat, to the Edenton Historical Commission, on which he served as chairman and as a member of the executive committee.​

Climer and his wife, Mary Ann Climer (born May 30, 1940), have a daughter, Greta (born 1969), son-in-law Kevin Kennedy, and granddaughters Lucy and Violet, who reside in King County, Washington. Their son, Matthew A. Climer (born March 31, 1971), lives in Amherst Virginia.​


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Dan Durning (October 12, 1972). Jerry Climer for Arkansas Secretary of State. Retrieved on August 15, 2019.
  2. Arkansas Secretary of State, Election Returns, November 7, 1972.

Other sources

Arkansas Gazette, November 1, 5, 1972.​
Pine Bluff Commercial, November 4, 6, 1972​.
Arkansas Outlook (Republican Party newsletter), January 1971, September 1972.​