By Bonnie D. Graham
When he was in the third grade at Baker Hill School, Peter L. Scher enthusiastically organized a benefit carnival on his family's front lawn for the Children's Medical Center, an organization in which his mother was actively involved. Susan Scher recalls, "Peter was the biggest organizer. Everyone thought he would one day want to become an elected official, but I always told them that Peter enjoyed working behind the scenes better. I knew."
And so, it was a thrill but certainly no surprise to the Scher family, Great Neck residents for 35 years, when President Clinton, on July 28, 1997, announced his intent to nominate Peter L. Scher to the rank of ambassador during his tenure of service as the Special Trade Negotiator for Agriculture in the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Peter L. Scher was confirmed by the US Senate on Oct. 23 as the United States Special Trade Ambassador for Agriculture and was sworn in by Vice President Al Gore on Nov. 7, 1997.
Ambassador Scher is responsible for conducting trade negotiations to open international markets for US agriculture products, with China high on his list of priorities. He will assist the US Trade Representative in developing and coordinating the implementation of US international trade policy. Agriculture products are the United States' number one export, reaching a record $60 billion in 1996.
Along with brother Bill and sister Alison, Ambassador Scher was raised in a family that was immersed in local politics. The Scher home was the scene of many dynamic meetings, especially while his father, Stanley Scher, served as president of the Great Neck Democratic Club. After graduating from Great Neck North High in 1979, Peter Scher went on to American University where he successfully ran for student body president. He graduated in 1983 with a BA degree in political science, just in time to go to work on Walter Mondale's presidential campaign and to manage Geraldine Ferraro's campaign airplane. Immediately after the team's unsuccessful bid for the White House, he was reminded by his father that he would need to choose between finding a job and going to graduate school. Susan Scher recalls, "Peter thought for a total of five minutes and then announced that he would go to law school like his older brother, Bill. That's all the time he needed."
Ambassador Scher earned his Juris Doctor in 1987 from American University's Washington College of Law, where he ran election campaigns for several fellow students. After graduation, he went to work on Michael Dukakis's bid for the Presidency and later practiced law with the Washington. D.C. office of Keck, Mahin & Cate.
Ambassador Scher's Washington, D.C. bio is indeed impressive. Before joining the Clinton Administration, he was named chief of staff to United States Senator Max Baucus (Dem. - Montana) from 1991 to 1993, becoming the youngest Chief of Staff in the US Senate. He went on to become staff director for the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works from 1993 to 1995.
He served as Chief of Staff to the US Trade Representative from 1995 to 1996, and as a principal advisor to Ambassador Kantor regarding trade negotiations, legislation and other policy issues. When he was appointed to the ambassadorship in 1997, he was serving as chief of staff at the US Department of Commerce, and as the chief operating officer, with responsibility for coordinating all Department of Commerce activities with the White House and other federal agencies. He also served as a member of the president's Management Council and as a principal policy advisor to Secretary Kantor.
Naturally, Ambassador Scher speaks highly of his Great Neck roots. "Great Neck is such an active community where public service is viewed as an important and noble endeavor. Growing up in Great Neck provided me with so many opportunities to get involved with local government activities, like serving as the student representative to the school board, as well as local and national political campaigns. These activities led to my interest in politics and government, which I have been able to pursue during my time in Washington, D.C."
Ambassador Scher and his wife, Kim Tilley, are the parents of a son, Jacob, born October 1, 1997. Ms. Tilley currently serves as the director of scheduling and advance for Vice President Al Gore.
So, how did proud mom Susan Scher react to the news of her son's appointment as ambassador? "I was speechless. He called me on the phone on a Saturday morning. I couldn't even write the word 'ambassador' because I was so stunned, and we couldn't say anything to anyone until it was official. Peter is really a delicious kid. I have three wonderful children who all make me proud, and I am very blessed."