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October 10, 2001 1 min read
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Paige Lieutenant Leaves

More than eight months into the Bush administration, the Department of Education’s executive suite has seen its first departure.

Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s chief of staff, Terry R. Abbott, left that position last week and was replaced by John Danielson, an aide to Secretary Lamar Alexander during the first Bush administration.

The change was announced in the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 28, effective the following Monday, Oct. 1. Mr. Abbott was unavailable for comment last week.

Mr. Abbott, Mr. Paige’s communications director during the secretary’s days as the Houston superintendent of schools, will take a public relations job in another, as-yet- unspecified federal agency.

The chief of staff’s position is seen as one of the most important—and stressful—behind-the-scenes jobs in any federal agency. The person serves as the secretary’s top aide and oversees a wide range of policy, personnel, and political issues.

Some department workers suggested Mr. Abbott was not the right fit for the job, and that he was inaccessible and uncommunicative—a contrast to the high marks he received in handling communications in Houston. That mirrors internal critiques of Mr. Paige that surfaced earlier, about the time the secretary was rumored—incorrectly—to be headed back to Texas. (“Paige Asserts He’ll Smooth Early Bumps,” July 11, 2001.)

Mr. Abbott, 40, began his career at age 18 as a reporter at the Cullman (Ala.) Times, a small daily newspaper. While attending college at night, he worked his way up to a larger Alabama newspaper and later was Republican Gov. Guy Hunt’s press aide.. He also ran several campaigns for Congress before going to Houston in 1996.

After working in Washington, Mr. Danielson, 38, returned to his native Houston. He then started a company that contracted with the Houston district in 1997 to provide alternative education services to help schools educate low-performing and disruptive students.

—Joetta L. Sack federal@epe.org.

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