Policy Brief

Mr. Smith Returns To Washington

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His office may be smaller, but Marshall "Mike" S. Smith, a veteran education official from the Clinton era, is back at 400 Maryland Ave. S.W., in downtown Washington. As of last month, Mr. Smith has returned to the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters as a senior adviser to Secretary Arne Duncan.

"I'm working with a team on the implementation of the stimulus package, which is a big part of my time, and other duties as requested by the secretary," said Mr. Smith, who served as both the undersecretary and acting deputy secretary at the agency for seven years during the Clinton administration.

Mr. Smith, 71, said he expects to stay in his new position, which does not require Senate confirmation, for a year or two.

Many key slots at the Education Department remain unfilled, including the No. 2 job, deputy secretary. And with a federal economic-stimulus measure that includes some $115 billion in aid for education, the department under President Barack Obama has had to hit the ground running.

"The mix of things we have to deal with now is far greater than in the first days of the Clinton era," Mr. Smith said.

Since stepping down from the department in 2000, Mr. Smith has spent most of his time as the education program director (and more recently a senior adviser) at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, based in Menlo Park, Calif. His last day at the foundation was Jan. 21.

The former Education Department official joins an administration already loaded with plenty of Clintonites. "It's just the natural way of the world," Mr. Smith said. "These are people who know the workings of government."

In his case, Secretary Duncan asked him to come on board, Mr. Smith said. "That always helps in making decisions," he said.

At the same time, Mr. Smith said he was "energized" by Mr. Obama's vision during the campaign. In fact, he wasn’t the only one in the family to feel that way, recalling what his 13-year-old grandson told him last summer: “He said, ‘I’m going to disown you guys if you don’t vote for him.'?"

Vol. 28, Issue 23, Page 15

Published in Print: March 4, 2009, as Mr. Smith Returns To Washington
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