Office of Public Liaison
|Headquarters||Eisenhower Executive Office Building|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Parent department||White House Office|
The White House Office of Public Engagement is a unit of the White House Office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Under the administration of President Barack Obama, it was called the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. President Donald Trump restored the prior name of the White House Office of Public Liaison and separated the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. President Joe Biden changed the name to the White House Office of Public Engagement but retained Trump's separate Intergovernmental Affairs Office in his administration.
The current director of public engagement is former mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who assumed office in June 2022.
The Office of Public Liaison has been responsible for communicating and interacting with various interest groups. Under President Richard Nixon, Charles Colson performed public liaison work. President Gerald Ford first formalized the public liaison office after he took office in 1974, giving Nixon administration veteran William J. Baroody Jr. a mandate for OPL to become "an instrument for projecting the image of a truly open administration (in contrast to Nixon's) and to secure Ford's election in 1976. Under Baroody's direction, the office incorporated outreach efforts with consumers and women that had been located elsewhere in the White House, and the overall staff grew to approximately thirty. At the core of its activities was an aggressive campaign of regional conferences that enabled the nation's first un-elected president to tour the country in a campaign-like atmosphere and prepare the way for an eventual reelection campaign."
Some OPL heads used the office to push their own agendas. Midge Costanza used her time at OPL to broaden the influence of gays and lesbians in White House policy. Faith Ryan Whittlesey used her time at OPL to increase the influence of the Christian right and anti-communist groups, such as the Contras in Nicaragua.
Future cabinet secretary and U.S. senator Elizabeth Dole headed OPL under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1983. Directors during Bill Clinton's administration included future cabinet secretary Alexis Herman, Maria Echaveste, Minyon Moore and future John Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill.
In May 2009, Obama continued this theme and renamed the Office of Public Liaison the Office of Public Engagement. Under the Obama administration, the Office of Public Engagement had been referred to as "the front door to the White House, through which everyone can participate and inform the work of the President."
In April 2009, actor Kal Penn was named an associate director in the Office of Public Engagement. His role was said to include outreach to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and the arts community. Prior to the appointment, he was a permanent cast member in the television series House, and his acceptance required him to be written out of the series.
President Donald Trump initially announced his intention to appoint Anthony Scaramucci to oversee the Office of Public Liaison in his administration, pending a review of Scaramucci's finances by the Office of Government Ethics. However, George Sifakis was appointed instead in March 2017.
Joe Biden announced on November 17, 2020, that the office will be known as the Office of Public Engagement in his incoming administration, and was most recently headed by Cedric Richmond until his resignation in May 2022, when he was replaced by Adrian Saenz in an acting capacity.
List of directors
The following have held the office of Director of Public Liaison at the White House:
|Image||Officeholder||Term start||Term end||President|
|Chuck Colson||July 9, 1970||March 10, 1973||Richard Nixon|
|William Baroody||March 10, 1973||January 20, 1977|
|Midge Costanza||January 20, 1977||September 1, 1978||Jimmy Carter|
|Anne Wexler||September 1, 1978||January 20, 1981|
|Elizabeth Dole||January 20, 1981||February 7, 1983||Ronald Reagan|
|Faith Whittlesey||March 3, 1983||March 19, 1985|
|Linda Chavez||April 8, 1985||February 4, 1986|
|Mari Maseng||May 12, 1986||July 1987|
|Rebecca Range||September 2, 1987||January 20, 1989|
|Bobbie Kilberg||January 20, 1989||April 6, 1992||George H. W. Bush|
|Cecile Kremer||April 6, 1992||January 20, 1993|
|Alexis Herman||January 20, 1993||February 7, 1997||Bill Clinton|
|Maria Echaveste||February 7, 1997||June 29, 1998|
|Minyon Moore||June 29, 1998||February 5, 1999|
|Mary Beth Cahill||February 5, 1999||January 20, 2001|
|Lezlee Westine||January 20, 2001||May 25, 2005||George W. Bush|
|Rhonda Keenum||May 25, 2005||March 20, 2007|
|Julie Cram||March 20, 2007||January 20, 2009|
|Valerie Jarrett||January 20, 2009||January 20, 2017||Barack Obama|
|George Sifakis||January 20, 2017
Acting to March 6, 2017
|September 25, 2017||Donald Trump|
|Johnny DeStefano||September 25, 2017
Acting to February 9, 2018
|March 18, 2018|
|Justin Clark||March 18, 2018||December 7, 2018|
|December 7, 2018||February 2, 2019|
|Timothy Pataki||February 2, 2019||January 20, 2021|
|Cedric Richmond||January 20, 2021||May 18, 2022||Joe Biden|
|May 18, 2022||June 2022|
|Keisha Lance Bottoms||June 2022||present|
- "Incoming White House Public Engagement Director On His Plans For The Job". All Things Considered. NPR. December 11, 2020. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
- "The White House Transition Project" (PDF). White House Transition Project. March 2009. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016.
- Martin, William (1996). With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. New York: Broadway. p. 235. ISBN 0-7679-2257-3.
- Sklar, Holly (1995). Washington's War on Nicaragua. Cambridge, MA: South End Press. p. 244. ISBN 0-89608-295-4.
- "The White House Transition Project" (PDF). White House Transition Project. March 2009. p. 21. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2016.
- "President Obama Launches Office of Public Engagement: A New Name, Mission for White House Liaison Office" (Press release). Office of the Press Secretary. May 11, 2009. Retrieved May 11, 2009.
- Ambinder, Marc (April 9, 2009). "Actor, Comedian, Associate Director of Public Liaison". The Atlantic.
- "Actor Kal Penn joining the Obama administration". CNN. April 7, 2009.
- Daunt, Tina (April 10, 2009). "Kal Penn tackles a new role: White House liaison". Los Angeles Times.
- Gasparino, Charles; Schwartz, Brian (January 31, 2017). "The Story Behind Scaramucci's Delayed Appointment Amid Trump White House Bickering". Fox Business. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
- "President Donald J. Trump Announces White House Staff Appointments". whitehouse.gov. March 6, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2017 – via National Archives.
- Kamisar, Ben (January 12, 2017). "Scaramucci lands White House job". The Hill. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
- "Biden Taps Several Senior Campaign Aides For Key White House Positions". NPR.org. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
- Sink, Justin; Cirilli, Kevin (March 6, 2017). "Trump Names Sifakis as Public Liaison, Passing Over Scaramucci". Bloomberg. Retrieved September 3, 2017.
- Delk, Josh (August 18, 2017). "Public Liaison director leaving White House". The Hill. Archived from the original on September 1, 2018. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
- Cook, Nancy (October 15, 2017). "Kelly tries to get empty administration jobs filled fast". Politico. Archived from the original on March 31, 2018. Retrieved October 15, 2017.