Waukesha man about to retire as White House chimney sweep

Posted at 10:23 PM, Aug 11, 2017

A Waukesha man who has spent decades sweeping chimneys is about to clean his last ones at America's most famous residence.

Jeff Schmittinger is the White House chimney sweep. He has served four presidents and after next week he retires.

You can find Schmittinger wearing a traditional black top hat, carry a brush and on Aug. 14 standing on the roof of the White House. He got the yearly job of cleaning out their chimneys after making a cold call. He simple dialed information and asked to be connected to the White House.

"I called and volunteered to clean the chimneys as my contribution towards fighting the budget deficit," Schmittinger said.

That was in 1993 when Bill Clinton was president. The White House staff took Schmittinger up on his offer and he picked out a crew of nine men and women to go with him, never charging the country a dime.

"I told them I felt like the little drummer boy in Christmas carol that I knew it wasn't much but it's what I do better than anything else," Schmittinger said.

Over the years, others in the Chimney Sweep Guild have asked to go. Everyone is a volunteer. Schmittinger hand picks them from across the country. In 2006, he brought a Vietnam Veteran who had recently lost his son in the Iraq War. That year the president asked to see them and the veteran was able to give a special shirt of his son to George W. Bush.

"When he gave that to President Bush there was not a dry eye in that room including the president's," Schmittinger said.

But often Schmittinger and his crew come and go without ever seeing the presidents. It's a point of pride they do not leave behind a trace or an ash in America's house after they sweep clean the flues and the 35 fireplaces.

"We do what we came to do and we leave with the satisfaction of knowing that we did what we do best in the most well known house in the country," Schmittinger said.