The First Lady's team in transition...
The East Wing has had many staff changes in the last two and a half years, including in major positions: First Lady Michelle Obama is now on her third Social Secretary, Jeremy Bernard, and her third Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen. The Executive Director of the Let's Move! campaign, Robin Schepper, is the latest member of the team to step down. Schepper will leave her post in June, Director of Communications Kristina Schake announced on Friday. Schake herself is the second person to be the First Lady's communications lead, and Press Secretary Katie McCormick Lelyveld departed on Friday, after three years with Mrs. Obama.
New Press Secretary Hannah August has been at the White House this week, getting acclimated to her new post.
Outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it's difficult to tell that there have been staff changes. Mrs. Obama's packed schedule abroad and at home, which includes two national campaigns, hundreds of annual events inside and outside the White House--and now campaigning for the 2012 presidential race--continues uninterrupted.
"The entire team will be doing more during this transition time," Schake told Obama Foodorama, when queried about gaps in staffing.
Mrs. Obama, in addition to the team changes, has made some creative embroideries on the use of White House personnel. She is the only First Lady to ever have made her domestic staff--the White House chefs--part of both her policy operation and outreach efforts. Assistant chef Sam Kass does double duty as a policy chief, and also travels the US, bringing Let's Move! to conferences and other events. Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses have done their share of travel for the campaign, too, in addition to events at the White House and in Washington. Yosses travels to Austin, Texas next week for a Let's Move! event.
Schepper is the only Executive Director that the Let's Move! campaign has had, and is departing in search of "family balance," Schake said. She is the mother of two young boys, and joined the East Wing in August of 2010, six months after the initiative was formally launched. Her schedule has also included travel around the US: On Wednesday, Schepper was in Wisconsin, to launch Let's Move in Indian Country. (Above: Schepper at a Let's Move! event)
Schepper will be joining the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, where she will continue to work on childhood obesity issues. The organization launched a Nutrition Initiative in March, which is being led by four former Cabinet Secretaries.
"I’m so pleased Robin will be continuing to affect change on this critical issue for our children’s health and well being and I wish her all the best in her new position," Mrs. Obama said in a statement.
“Reducing rampant childhood obesity rates within a generation is no easy task and Robin took the challenge on with incredible enthusiasm and creativity," Mrs. Obama said. "During her tenure with Let’s Move!, we saw collaborations come together with sports enthusiasts young and old. We joined with major media outlets to spread the word through over a dozen PSAs that millions of Americans have seen. And, we had communities coast to coast sign up and get involved through Let’s Move! Cities and Towns."
New Executive Directors...
Schepper will be replaced by a new Executive Director for Let's Move!, Schake said, and the East Wing is also in the process of hiring an Executive Director for Joining Forces, Mrs. Obama's military families campaign.
What kind of candidates are under consideration to fill the positions? No names have been released by the East Wing, but the First Lady has gone on the record about what she expects from her staff.
“I need people who are energetic and forward-thinking and not afraid of new ideas and are constantly keeping their pulse on what’s going on out in the community,” Mrs. Obama told reporters from her print pool, during a special White House luncheon in February. “I need people who...will push me, and push me to think differently."
Mrs. Obama launched Joining Forces in April, and celebrated the one-year anniversary of Let's Move! in February of 2011.
*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama