During her term, which officially ends today, Tenenbaum transformed the commission into one of the leading product safety agencies in the world.
Starting in 2009, she established a leadership philosophy aimed at making the agency more accessible and transparent; making education and advocacy a priority; and being firm but fair in enforcing safety laws and working to keep unsafe products out of the hands of consumers.
Before Tenenbaum stepped down, The Augusta Chronicle asked the University of Georgia graduate five questions about her experiences as chairwoman.
Q: During the holiday season, what’s the main safety focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission?
A: Right now, we are looking at toys. Toys are very important to the holidays and every year we have a port surveillance program in place to make sure products coming into the country comply with federal standards. We also work with industry leaders to make sure they know what the standards are.
Q: What should consumers be mindful of when using household appliances during the winter?
A: What we have found is people buy portable home generators and sometimes use them too close to the house or in a garage when inclement weather strikes. These devices give off high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be fatal. We warn people to keep them far from their house to protect themselves.
Also with space heaters, they should be kept near a fireplace mantle and if at all possible, gated to keep children from gaining access to them, because their loose-fitting clothing has been known to catch on fire.
Q: What prompted your retirement?
A: I have commuted from Columbia, S.C., every week for four-and-a-half years to Bethesda, Md., to do my job. It was time to return home. I will join the Columbia law firm Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough to work on consumer product safety liability and compliance issues. I also plan to work with former Gov. Richard Riley on education policy.
Q: Do you have any leisurely plans?
A: I will be taking some time off for the holidays and my husband is going to enjoy not getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to take me to the airport. I also look forward to vacationing at our home in Caesar’s Head, S.C., and spending more time with my family, friends and pets.
Q: What will you miss most about your role as chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission?
A: The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a wonderful mission to protect children and people of all ages and my life mission has been to enhance the life of children in South Carolina and I have done that in many different venues. I started as an elementary school teacher in Augusta and was the South Carolina state superintendent of education. When I practiced law, I focused on public interest law that benefited children and this was just one extension of a wonderful life mission.