In 1993 a tradition was born that is still in practice today. After hearing President Clinton’s appeal for a balanced budget, Jeff Schmittinger was so moved that he offered to sweep the White House’s 35 chimneys for free. Schmittinger and his company Wisconsin Chimney Technicians have been performing this job ever since. He doesn’t just bring his own people, though. He also accepts nominations from the National Chimney Sweep Guild. He wants to bring sweeps that contribute to their communities. Service is key.
Since this is such an honor, and only the best sweeps can go, Schmittinger changes out the White House crew each time he goes. He wants every one that goes to understand that this is an honor. It is a service that is being performed not just for the President, but also for the entire American public. Every one that goes can do the job with pride in that fact.
One very memorable trip was in 2006. One of his crew had recently lost a son to a roadside bomb, and was still hurting. President Bush walked through, and thanked them for the job they were doing. He took time to speak to the hurting father, which made his trip. The wife of that crew member said the conversation with the President was the most therapeutic thing to happen since their son died. You really never know what can happen on one of these trips.
That was very true this year. As many of you know, there was a mild earthquake along the east coast this past week, and it was felt in the D.C. area. Schmittinger and his crew were on the roof when it happened. His wife was also there, and was a little shaken by the experience. However, everyone was okay. I’ll say this, no one is ever going to forget that trip!