UPDATE, May 27, 2011: Schepper steps down from her post
First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign heads into Fall with a busy schedule and a new addition to the team. After a months-long search, veteran communications strategist and event specialist Robin F. Schepper has been chosen to be Executive Director, Let's Move, according to Camille Johnston, Mrs. Obama's Director of Communications. Schepper went to work on Monday in the First Lady's policy office. (Schepper, above)
"She's the perfect person for the job," Johnston said, adding that the short list of potential candidates was impressive. "We'd been looking for the perfect candidate and we found her."
Schepper, 47, has a wide-ranging resume that spans work on Democratic campaigns, in government and in the non-profit sector. To join the East Wing, she leaves her position as the president of Wayfinder, Inc., a Washington, DC-based firm she founded in 2005. The company offered strategic planning and communications strategy consulting services; clients included The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Center for International Policy, and Oxfam. Since 2008, Schepper has also devoted much of her time to the Murch Safe Routes To School campaign in DC's Department of Transportation, where she was a Team Leader. A native New Yorker, Schepper is the mother of two small boys.
"This is about how Let's Move! gets to the next level," Johnston said about Schepper's addition to the East Wing team. "We've done a really good job with an awareness campaign, and having an Executive Director who can coordinate the internal, federal agency and external efforts is imperative."
Schepper will work closely with the First Lady, Director of Policy and Projects Jocelyn Frye, Senior Policy Adviser For Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass, and East Wing staff to further develop and enact the broad array of Let's Move! projects that are now positioned in federal agencies (for instance, HealthierUS School Challenge is with USDA; Let's Move Outside is with Interior and Let's Read. Let's Move is with Education), as well as with many outside citizens' groups and individuals. These range from the School Nutrition Association to the PTA and the American Community Gardening Association, to the more than 1,700 professional chefs who have signed on as volunteers for Chefs Move To Schools. There are also projects such as Let's Move Cities and Towns, with the nation's mayors.
Schepper will also be working with the sports organizations that have joined the campaign, such as Major League Baseball and the NFL, as well as with the major entertainment entities that have signed on, including Nickelodeon and Disney. Schepper will work with the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, as well as with the Partnership for a Healthier America, the independent non-profit foundation that was created to boost campaign efforts. She will look to expand social media efforts and the Let's Move! website, which includes the Let's Cook video series, in which Kass hosts high profile guest chefs to present healthy, affordable family recipes. (Above: Mrs. Obama in July, launching the Let's Move! partnership with Major League Baseball, at Camden Yards in Maryland)
Between November 2000 and January 2005, Schepper was a principal with TSD, Inc., and managed the firm’s largest account, the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee. During the Games, she served as Communication Manager for the Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre, servicing 21,000 media. Among other positions, Schepper has also worked as a Director for the Democratic News Service; as Staff Director, Senate Democratic Communications Committee; and she worked on both Clinton/Gore campaigns, becoming Washington State Director for the '96 re-election campaign. She also worked for the Obama campaign, during the Convention. Earlier in her career, Schepper founded Pyramid Communications, a Seattle-based public affairs company that specialized in environmental, Native American and social justice concerns. Schepper is married to Eric Washburn, and their sons are Marat, 8 and Shokhan, 4.
Another East Wing transition
After creating and developing Mrs. Obama's portfolio of initiatives since January of 2009, Johnston herself is leaving the White House on Friday to return to the private sector, as Vice President, Corporate Affairs for Siemens. Schepper's new post is unrelated to her departure, Johnston said, noting that Let’s Move! is now a broad-based nation-wide initiative, and having Schepper aboard is essential for meeting the national goal of ending childhood obesity in a generation. No replacement has yet been named to fill Johnston's post, but she said that planning for the First Lady's Fall schedule is underway.
"They shouldn't skip a beat," Johnston said.
In the early months of Let's Move!, which was officially launched in February, longtime Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter oversaw the kinds of projects that Schepper will now handle. Cutter moved to the West Wing in April, as Special Assistant to the President for Special Projects, where she oversees communications strategies for the new health insurance reform law.
*Photo of the First Lady by Samantha Appleton/White House. Schepper photo by EGK/Obama Foodorama