Meet Dale Haney, custodian of the White House for 50 years

Presidents come and go, but the one who has remained the same through 10 is Dale Haney, the head of the White House who has spent 50 years serving families – and many of their pets – who called the mansion. Villa is home.

Haney’s main responsibility is to take care of the large, colorful lawns gardens, Hundreds of trees, thousands of shrubs and vegetable gardens are growing on 18 acres of land around the White House. He also chooses the official White House Christmas tree every year – and chose this year pine tree from a farm in Pennsylvania.

In honor of Haney, Biden and his wife, Jill, surprised Haney on Monday by planting an elm tree on the southern property. Biden said visitors in the coming years “will look at this tree and ask, ‘Who’s Dale? “

Haney joked that he “could still be here.”

But Haney is perhaps better known to many in the White House, from employees to Secret Service agents, as the custodian of the White House. presidential pet.

“He was like a whisperer,” said Anita McBride, a young aide in the correspondence office in the Ronald Reagan administration, when she first met Haney.

These days, it is common to see Haney walking Commander, President Joe Biden’s German Shepherd.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Dale is his relationship with the animals in the first family,” said Gary Walters, who has had a long working record of his own serving four presidents. President for more than 20 years as White House Chief of Staff, managing resident staff.

Walters recalls the chaos of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the evacuation from the White House while President George W. Bush was in Florida. Walters and some of his staff stayed behind despite the evacuation. They were on the South Lawn when Walters turned “and had Dale standing with Barney under one hand and Kitty Cat under the other.”

“He had to find them and was figuring out what to do with them,” Walters said of Bush’s cat and Scottish terrier. The pets were finally reunited with Laura Bush at a remote location.

White House horticulturist Dale Haney, right, hugs President Barney’s pet pet, as visitors await the arrival of President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush on the South Lawn ( AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta)


Anyone starting a career today is unlikely to still have that job half a century later, but Haney’s long work record matches the White House.

He was a member of the activist staff – housekeepers, housekeepers, electricians, carpenters, gardeners and others – who were not involved in policy or politics. Their job is to keep the place running and take care of the family. Many people keep their jobs for decades.

“It was a unique role in the White House, who met Haney again when she returned to work for President George HW Bush and, later, for his son,” McBride said.

Haney had planned to work just two years in the White House when he started in 1972, during Richard Nixon’s presidency. He already has a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and wants to go back to school to continue his studies.

He was interning in the garden at the Dumbarton Oaks museum in Washington when the White House called to find someone who could help take care of its grounds. He interviewed and started work six months later as gardeners with the National Park Service, which looks after the White House grounds.

Haney became a foreman, then chief of horticulture, before he was promoted to base manager in 2008, a position that made him a White House resident. Haney reports to the opening director, and oversees a full-time staff of 12 gardeners, maintenance workers, electricians, and plumbers.

“When I accepted the job, I agreed to stay for two years,” he said in an interview with the quarterly White House History, a publication of the White House Historical Association. “But time goes by so fast, it really doesn’t feel like 50 years.”

He and his team are so busy that “it’s easy to forget that time is passing. No day is the same and every day brings challenges.”


Haney, who turns 71 on November 4, has seen White House history unfold:

Nixon left the White House by helicopter after he resigned in 1974. President Jimmy Carter oversaw the signing of the landmark peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979.

The crash of a small plane at the site in 1994. Evacuation on 9/11. Chairperson Barack Obama“beer summit” in 2009. President Donald Trump chairs parts of the Republican national political convention on the South Lawn in 2020.

Fifty years of annual Rolls Easter celebrations and numerous state visits for world leaders, including three visits by Queen Elizabeth II and three different popes. Another state visit is underway for the French president on December 1.

The South Lawn will become the November 19 wedding venue for Biden’s niece Naomi.

Dale Haney photographed at the White House (Jimmy Carter Presidential Library via AP)


First families often seek to leave a lasting mark on the White House and are sometimes associated with the estate.

Most recently, Haney helped Melania Trump added a tennis pavilion on the south site and renovated the Rose Garden.

“His meticulous attention to detail has always ensured and maintained the beauty of the White House grounds for many to enjoy,” the former first lady said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Haney also helped Michelle Obama create her 1,100-square-foot “kitchen garden,” which continues to grow a variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. A hive produces honey.

Laura Bush remembers Haney as “all animals’ best friend.”

“Our dogs Spot, Barney and Beazley adore him,” she said in a statement to the AP. “They love him more than they love us.”

Jill Biden announced Haney’s public service milestone by tweeting a photo of him with her, the president and the Commander in the Oval Office.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, sent Haney a letter thanking him for bringing his “passion” and “expertise to the incredibly daunting task of tending the White House grounds.” They added, “We will also never forget how wonderfully you took care of Sunny and Bo,” the family dogs.

“Indeed, you have made and lived in history,” Bill and Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea said in their private letter to Haney, also shared with the AP.

Jim Adams, left, National Park Service’s supervisory horticulture expert, and Dale Haney, right (Matt Smith/The Express-Times via AP)


Haney was one of the first people Debra Dunn met after she was put in charge of the White House guest office after the elderly Bush took office in 1989.

She said Easter came early that year and only one of her small staff had the experience planning events for 30,000 people.

But Haney talked her through some of the logistics, and introduced her to other employees who could help, like carpenters and florist.

For Halloween, Dunn recalls wondering about the setting and props. Haney told her about a giant pumpkin from a former celebration that was lying in the barn.

“How can I know that it exists?” she asked in a phone interview from Paris, where she lives and works. “He’s just my guiding star.”

That’s why people love Haney, says McBride.

“Anyone who works in the White House has run into him, once or a hundred times,” she said. “Just the mention of his name makes you smile because he enjoys his job and is friendly to everyone.”

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