Before he was President, Vice-President, Governor of New York, Rough Rider, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and NYC Police Commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt served for six years as one of three presidentially appointed Civil Service Commissioners. He campaigned for the Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and received the nomination from President Harrison on December 4, 1889:

Roosevelt vigorously enforced the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883. Joseph Bucklin Bishop, Roosevelt’s friend and authorized biographer, wrote that “[t]he very citadel of spoils politics, the hitherto impregnable fortress that had existed unshaken since it was erected on the foundation laid by Andrew Jackson, was tottering to its fall under the assaults of this audacious and irrepressible young man. . . . The time-honored theory that ‘to the victors belong the spoils,’ if not completely destroyed, had received shocks from which it could never recover.” Grover Cleveland (a Democrat) reappointed Roosevelt; the young Commissioner left Washington on his own terms.

According to the description of a book about Roosevelt’s years as Civil Service Commissioner, 1889-1895 was “a significant period of his life because he matured politically and learned how to navigate through Washington politics. He sparred with powerful cabinet officers and congressmen and survived their attempts to destroy him. He cultivated important friendships and allegiances [Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Henry Adams, John Hay], flourished intellectually, and strengthened his progressive views of social justice, racial theory, and foreign relations. It was a period altogether significant to the honing of administrative talent and intellectual acuity of the future president.”