William J. Leidinger, a former county executive and local politician, has been named by President Bush to fill a long-vacant slot at the Department of Education: assistant secretary for management.
And a published report indicates that the president may reach into cutting-edge territory for an assistant secretary for postsecondary education, naming to the position a lobbyist for a for-profit university known primarily for its online courses.
Mr. Leidinger served as the county executive for Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington, from 1992 until 1996, when he was fired by the board of supervisors on a 7-2 vote. He also served as a City Council member in Richmond, Va., and as the city manager there before moving to Fairfax County.
Position Long Vacant
Lindsey Kozberg, a spokeswoman for Education Secretary Rod Paige, said the job of assistant secretary for management had not been filled for six years, spanning most of the Clinton administration. The position, which reports to the deputy secretary of education, will be focused largely inward to improve the structure, functioning, and administrative matters within the department, Ms. Kozberg said.
The duties include work on personnel issues, financial management, contracting, facilities, and support services, she said. The appointment requires Senate confirmation.
From 1997 until several months ago, Mr. Leidinger worked in a suburban Washington office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a New York and London-based accounting and business-consulting company. When he left the company earlier this year, he was the Mid-Atlantic business- development manager.
Mr. Leidinger, 61, had an increasingly rocky relationship with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors before its decision to vote him out. Among the reasons board leaders cited at the time were Mr. Leidinger’s purported failure to adequately communicate with the board and questions about his handling of a contract for a computer-system upgrade that went far above the original budget. There were also disagreements over fiscal policy.
But Michael R. Frey, a Republican supervisor who served on the Fairfax County board during Mr. Leidinger’s tenure, said that the former county executive was swept out by a political changing of the guard.
“Bill is very talented, very capable,” Mr. Frey said. “He was let go for political reasons. It didn’t have anything to do with his performance.” Mr. Frey noted that when Mr. Leidinger was appointed, the board was controlled by Republicans, but that in 1995, Democrats took the majority.
The Final Slot
Department of Education officials also say President Bush will soon announce his selection for the position of assistant secretary for postsecondary education, now the only assistant secretary’s position without a name officially attached to it. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last week that the name will be Sally Stroup, a Washington lobbyist for the University of Phoenix.
One of the nation’s largest private accredited universities, the for- profit University of Phoenix has more than 105 campuses, but is best known for its online degree programs.
Ms. Stroup worked for 11 years with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, where she helped manage programs for the student-loan-guarantee agency, before becoming an aide to then- Rep. Bill Goodling, a Republican from Pennsylvania who chaired the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
Edward Elmendorf, a former assistant secretary for postsecondary education during the Reagan administration and now the vice president for government relations and public affairs for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said Ms. Stroup would bring a strong background on a variety of higher education issues to the position.
“She is a knowledgeable person who has seen the pros and cons of most education legislation and regulation,” Mr. Elmendorf said.
But the job of assistant secretary for postsecondary education today, he noted, carries responsibilities different from those during his tenure in the 1980’s. “The role has been reduced significantly,” he said. “It’s now more of a policy position rather than having direct oversight of program funds.”