I vaguely remember reading a science fiction story in which the character was introduced as a unambitious government official (a bureaucrat). I believe in the story it mentions that while his superiors had come and gone, he always remained due to his unoffensive nature. Throughout the story the character manipulates his way to meet his ends (which I believe had something to do with aliens and their rights). I believe it was written by Asimov, but it might have been Arthur C. Clarke or Robert A. Heinlein.

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    In what sense was this "science fiction"? – Valorum Jan 29 '15 at 23:39
  • Aliens (I think), and interplanetary government. The story in itself didn't have much science fiction, but if I remember correctly, I read it in a science fiction anthology when I went on a binge reading some of the 'classics' (or 'greats' if you prefer). – user41243 Jan 29 '15 at 23:42
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    The Jack Vance short story "Dodkin's Job" is probably not what you're looking for, but it has enough similarities that you'll probably enjoy it. And everyone should read some Vance. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jan 30 '15 at 0:05
  • @dmckee this needs more upvotes. – Broklynite Oct 14 '16 at 19:28
  • Note that answer below is OP-provided, though unaccepted. – Otis Jun 19 '19 at 14:08

It's Asimov's 'Blind Alley'. It wasn't so much people had come and gone as he had played multiple parties to his end.

In the universe of the Galactic Empire (which would include eventually the Foundations), a non-human race is discovered and carefully herded to a planet to use as a combination zoo, laboratory, and reservation. Desperately unhappy, they are dying off, until the administrator in charge of their cage launches a clever plan to buy them escape and freedom. [Blurb from Jenkins' Guide]

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    +1 But I think your answer could be improved by linking to the ISFDB page and the Wikipedia page for that story, and by copying the Wikipedia plot summary into your answer. – user14111 Jan 30 '15 at 3:05
  • I was going to link to the Wikipedia page, but I wasn't sure if that was considered 'good practice'. Thanks. – user41243 Jan 30 '15 at 13:54
  • I'd link to both the Wikipedia page (for the plot summary) and the ISFDB page (for the list of places the story can be found). – user14111 Jan 30 '15 at 13:57
  • Because it's open content, you can even post large swaths of Wikipedia in your answers, although I personally try to quote the minimum possible to support an answer. – FuzzyBoots Jan 30 '15 at 17:41

Possibly The Star Beast by Heinlein. A major character is Mr. Kiku, a bureaucrat whose actions drive much of the plot. He is a civil service man who watches political appointees come and go. He is not the major protagonist however.

The major plot is driven by powerful aliens who are attempting to regain a member of their species who was 'kidnapped' as an infant; it may be the protagonist's pet.

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    The story I was thinking of was a short story, sorry I didn't add that. I would venture to say it was no more than ten pages. I must admit that it sounds close enough to make me think the short was written by Heinlein. – user41243 Jan 30 '15 at 0:44
  • You did say in a comment that it was in an anthology; I think our posts overlapped. Your description sounds familiar enough that I'll think about other possibilities. – Organic Marble Jan 30 '15 at 0:55
  • I've looked over Asimov's and Heinlein's short stories on Wikipedia and none of them seem to be it. – user41243 Jan 30 '15 at 1:49

Sound vaguely like some of the Retief stories by Keith Laumer some of them are fairly short and if you only have a vague recollection you could probably think Retief is an unambitious sort and in several of the stories his superiors are moved for various reasons

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