White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers will step down next month and be replaced by Julianna Smoot, the chief fundraiser for the Obama presidential campaign, I've learned. I talked with Rogers exclusively
on Friday about her departure from the White House. Close to President Obama and First Lady Michelle, she was one of the first appointees of the Obama administration. She leaves after presiding over 330 events in the White House and carrying out the Obamas' vision of creating more inclusive events that drew in people who would not otherwise be invited to the White House.
She came under fire last year after a publicity seeking couple crashed the Obamas' first state dinner
. I wrote a Politics Daily column about Rogers and the gate-crashing controversy you can read here.
Rogers is one of the first high-profile appointees to leave the Obama White House.
"As we turn the corner on the first year," Rogers told me, "this is a good time for me to explore opportunities in the corporate world."
Rogers said it has been "an honor and a privilege to serve this president and First Lady, in what has certainly been a historic presidency."
"When I took on this assignment, we talked about the importance of creating the people's house. My work was really to create this framework," she told me.
"I think I completed that work. Our office has been able to lay the foundation for what will be known as the 'people's house' and it has already taken shape."
I asked Rogers if the episode at the state dinner was a factor in her resignation. It "was not a deciding factor," she told me. "But it did show me a side of the job and of Washington that I had not seen before."
In a statement released Friday after I broke the story, the Obamas said, "We are enormously grateful to Desiree Rogers for the terrific job she's done as the White House Social Secretary. When she took this position, we asked Desiree to help make sure that the White House truly is the People's House, and she did that by welcoming scores of everyday Americans through its doors, from wounded warriors to local schoolchildren to NASCAR drivers. She organized hundreds of fun and creative events during her time here, and we will miss her. We thank her again for her service and wish her all the best in her future endeavors."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, asked about Rogers at the Friday briefing, said she told the Obamas "around the beginning of the year that she thought it was time for her to go back to the private sector. She's not been asked to leave. She's decided it's time to go back to doing other things that she loves."
Rogers will stay to work with Smoot to make sure of a smooth transition, I was told. Smoot was one of the first hires of the Obama presidential campaign. Her ability to raise millions for Obama in the first quarter of his presidential campaign made him a viable top-tier contender on financial par with then-rival Hillary Rodham Clinton. Smoot is now the chief of staff for U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.