Interior Department Chief of Staff Leaving his Post

Jan 10, 2011 1:26pm

 "I came to Washington to take on this job and help (Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar) in the task of cleaning up this department," Strickland told the Denver Post.  "We've had even more excitement and challenge than we bargained for. . . . We always brought our best effort. We always tried to do right by the people."

Salazar told the newspaper: "I asked him not to leave. I begged him. I'll miss his 80-hour weeks. He wants to move forward and do another chapter."

In a press release, the Department of the Interior praised Strickland for leading efforts to protect national parks, wildlife refuges and coastlines during the BP oil spill, helping to develop the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, and overseeing the department’s responsibilities to protect and recover threatened and endangered species, including the polar bear.

As you may recall, ABC News was first to report last May that although his agency was charged with coordinating the federal response to the BP oil spill, Strickland traveled to the Grand Canyon with his wife participating in activities that included white-water rafting three days after the leaks in the Deepwater Horizon pipeline were discovered.

At the time, other leaders of the Interior Department were focused on the Gulf, joined by other agencies and literally thousands of other employees. The chief of staff’s trip raised eyebrows among other Obama administration officials and even within even his own department, sources told ABC News. Strickland, who also serves as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, was in the Grand Canyon with his wife Beth for a total of three days, including one day of rafting. Beth Strickland paid her own way.

Ultimately, after the government realized that the spill was worse than had been previously thought, officials decided that Strickland was needed in the Gulf so Strickland was taken out of the Grand Canyon by a National Park Service helicopter.

Deputy Chief of Staff Laura Daniel Davis will become the new Chief of Staff, while Will Shafroth, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, will serve as Acting Assistant Secretary until a new Assistant Secretary is confirmed. 

-Jake Tapper

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