It was 2009 when U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer began his quest to bring a new FBI headquarters building to Prince George’s County.
The director of the FBI at the time, Robert Mueller, approached Hoyer, then the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The FBI’s building in Washington was old and outdated, Mueller told Hoyer.
“It was designed for a law enforcement agency that no longer exists,” Hoyer recalled Mueller saying. “We’re in a new era. And we need a building that accommodates the way we do the work that we now do.”
Fourteen years later — after stops and starts and controversy — Hoyer and a slew of Maryland officials took a victory lap Friday, praising the federal government’s selection of a site in Greenbelt for the headquarters.
For Hoyer, landing the FBI for his home county marks one of his top achievements in a political career that spans more than five decades, from the Maryland State House to the U.S. Capitol.
“This certainly has to be in the top three or four,” Hoyer told The Baltimore Banner. “I’m very excited about it.”
If all goes to plan — and there have been complaints about the selection of Greenbelt — the FBI will bring thousands of jobs to a multibillion-dollar complex next to the Greenbelt Metro Station. Boosters of the project have cheered its potential for economic transformation.
During a series of victory speeches in Greenbelt on Friday, politicians praised the team effort over the years and Hoyer’s leadership. He was variously called the champion, quarterback, captain and general manager of the “Team Maryland” effort.
“He is our architect of the plan … It would not have happened if we did not have the unity of a team. A team at every level to make this possible,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, also a key figure in the effort.
“If you ever get a chance to have a conversation with Steny Hoyer, I can guarantee you in the first 30 seconds ‘FBI’ will come up in that conversation,” Gov. Wes Moore said, eliciting chuckles from the crowd.
“For the record, in Maryland, we spell ‘tenacity’ S-T-E-N-Y,” said Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, who praised Hoyer’s diligence and called him “our forever leader.”
“The congressman spoke one language, and it was called ‘FBI,’” said Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
“I have been with him in many, many settings where he had me come inside and [he’d] say: ‘I want to have you talk to yet another person regarding the FBI.’ It has really been an effort of love and tenacity on his behalf,” Alsobrooks said.
Years of effort
Hoyer was far from alone in the yearslong effort to land the FBI, and dozens of politicians crowded behind a lectern and filled seats in Greenbelt’s municipal building on Friday — city and county council members, state delegates and senators, even former County Executive Rushern Baker.
Various members of Congress from Maryland, past and present, have had a hand in the project as well, including securing funding in the federal budget for the FBI headquarters — even before the site was selected.
State officials ensured there was money in the state budget to move the project along. County officials made the case for how the local community and economy would benefit. Moore and Alsobrooks were described as the “closers” when Maryland made its final in-person pitch to the U.S. General Services Administration earlier this year.
Not at the event, but still praised for his effort, was former Gov. Larry Hogan. For eight years, the Republican governor’s team partnered with the Congressional delegation in pushing Maryland’s bid before handing off the project to Moore’s administration in January.
“For over a decade, Maryland has been identified as the best home for the men and women of the FBI by study after study by any objective measure,” Hogan said in a statement. “This was a hard-fought win for Maryland, and it would not have happened without years of bipartisan collaboration.”
Hogan continued: “I’m proud of the hard work by our administration, our delegation led by Congressman Hoyer, and our partners to bring this home.”
Hogan and Hoyer may have had party differences, but they had a common affection for Prince George’s and the drive to help the county.
“Governor Hogan stepped up with all of the Democrats and other Republicans in this state and said, ‘This is the place for the FBI,’” Hoyer said. “This is not a partisan effort. This is bipartisan.”
As word of the decision leaked out on Wednesday, one of Hoyer’s top aides, Jim Notter, delivered the news to the congressman. Later, at dinner, Hoyer got a call from the top official at the U.S. General Services Administration, Robin Carnahan. She assured him that the GSA “dotted every i, crossed every t.”
The 14 years from Mueller’s meeting to Carnahan’s phone call took many twists and turns.
A rival bid in Springfield, Virginia, was recommended to be cut from consideration, but then put back in to ensure enough competing sites. Then-President Donald Trump put a stop to the process, with some wondering if he did so to benefit his hotel near the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington.
And after the FBI project got back on track under President Joe Biden, there was a tussle over the selection criteria, including how much weight should be given to the new site’s proximity to the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Even after the decision was announced Wednesday, the FBI director complained about the process and Virginia politicians criticized the selection of Greenbelt. There could be future political fights over the planning and funding of the project.
Hoyer — and the rest of “Team Maryland” — are convinced Greenbelt won fair and square. They repeatedly called the choice of Greenbelt “a done deal.”
“I think the fact that I thought we were right is what really sustained us through the ups and downs,” Hoyer said. “And I think the fact that we were all convinced we were right kept us energized.”