Rouse likely to be tapped as Obama's chief of staff

Posted: Friday, October 01, 2010

A former Alaskan has reportedly been selected to be the new chief of staff for President Obama, and he's being praised from Washington, D.C. to Juneau.

Pete Rouse, who once served as chief of staff to the late Republican Lt. Gov. Terry Miller, is expected to become the new top aide to Obama, White House sources have been telling national media.

Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs praised Rouse, without confirming that he'd be the new chief of staff.

Politico described what it called an "odd exchange" with reporters when Gibbs praised Rouse, without ever confirming he'd be getting the job.

"The type of trust the president and others in the administration have in Pete is enormous," Politico quoted Gibbs saying.

A formal announcement is expected today.

Coeur d'Alene Mines CEO Dennis Wheeler, speaking before the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, praised the appointment of an Alaskan to the key position.

He called Rouse "a man with very close ties to Alaska and former Gov. (Jay) Hammond." Miller was Hammond's lieutenant governor.

"I think this is a very positive development in terms of Alaska and government relations, he said.

Rouse was once the chief of staff for former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, when he was Senate Majority Leader, and remained a bridge at the time between Daschle and the state's then all-Republican delegation.

"I think that should be very good for balanced resource development going forward," Wheeler said.

Rouse has continued to maintain ties to Alaskans he knew while living in Juneau.

Former Juneau Sen. Kim Elton, now special advisor for Alaska affairs at the Department of the Interior, said he and his wife stayed at Rouse's house when they went to Washington, D.C. for Obama's inauguration.

Senate Majority Leader Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, last year said that while he and other Alaskans were meeting with Rouse in his West Wing office Obama walked in.

Even before the formal announcement was made, Sen. Mark Begich Thursday praised the "pending" appointment.

"It's great for Alaska to have someone so committed to the success of our state in such high places, he said.

Begich said that Rouse has as much knowledge of Alaska as any federal official in Washington, and that can only benefit the state.

Rouse's grandparents arrived in Seward in 1915. His mother entered Alaska schools speaking only Japanese, and went on to become valedictorian at Anchorage High School, Begich said.

Begich said Rouse earned the nickname "the 101st senator" while working for Daschle, and called him "soft spoken and down to earth, while being one of the most effective political operators I've known."

Rouse has a first-hand knowledge of the unique issues facing Alaskans, knows Alaska Native issues, and has been a strong advocate for an Alaska natural gas pipeline, he said.

Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or

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