Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-Md.) chief of staff has accepted an offer to become the top spokesman for NASA.
David Weaver, 49, has been appointed by President Barack Obama to be associate administrator of communications under NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. starting July 19. Weaver joined Van Hollen’s office in January 2009 after a long career in Maryland politics and will finish there on Friday.
“I’ve known David for twenty years, and during that time he’s been both a friend and an advisor,” Van Hollen said in a statement on Weaver’s departure.
Though Weaver has no background in space-related issues, he has extensive experience in communications, on the Hill and in Maryland politics. Early in his career he handled press for then-Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) and worked for then-Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), state Del. Lawrence Wiser, the polling firm Garin-Hart Research and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In 1988, he served as communications director on Peter Franchot’s Congressional campaign. Although Franchot lost, that race may be partly responsible for Weaver’s later role as chief of staff when Franchot became the state comptroller with an agency of 1,100 employees and a $120 million budget. Early in 2008, Weaver took a leave of absence from that office to handle communications for Obama’s primary campaign in Maryland.
The position at NASA has been tough for Obama to fill. Bob Jacobs, the deputy associate administrator in the office, is in his second stint as acting associate administrator of communications.
“Basically the AA position for communications and the AA position for legislative affairs have historically been political-appointed leadership positions, and during times of transition it’s not unusual for the deputy to serve in an acting role,” Jacobs explained.
Morrie Goodman, who served a similar role at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was appointed by Obama in October 2009, and he left in March. Jacobs has led the office since then. He estimated that 60 people work in the communications office at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and several hundred total work in communications agency-wide.
Weaver, a Silver Spring resident and University of Maryland graduate, won’t be the only top-level NASA appointee with ties to Maryland’s Congressional delegation. Seth Statler, who was appointed NASA’s associate administrator for legislative affairs in the fall of 2009, previously worked for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) and former Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D).
The Maryland delegation itself also has close ties to NASA: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA’s budget, and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) serves on the corresponding House subcommittee. The main campus of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is located in Greenbelt, Md.
While Van Hollen looks for a new chief of staff, his former Chief of Staff Karen Robb, now serving as director of policy in his leadership office, will serve as interim chief.