Angella Reid was the first black woman to ever become the White House chief usher when she was appointed by President Obama in 2011. But she made headlines again in May after the Trump administration fired her from the position. On Friday, First Lady Melania Trump announced Reid's replacement as White House chief usher: Timothy Harleth, who is currently the director of rooms at the Washington, D.C. Trump International Hotel.
The new hire was announced in a statement by Trump on Friday, serving as a punctuation mark on the story of Reid's firing last month. The job of White House chief usher is traditionally not partisan, and doesn't necessarily turn over when a new administration takes over.
For a sense of perspective, since the start of the 20th century, there have only been nine newly appointed chief ushers, and the average length of their tenures is about 13 years. The longest-serving in history, Irwin Hoover, served five different presidents between 1909 and 1933. And yet, Reid was let go in Trump's first few months ― and has now been replaced with a longtime Trump employee. After she was fired, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that they parted "on very good terms" and made sure to note, "it’s not uncommon you might have a transition of staff when a new administration comes in. It’s nothing more than that."
The new White House Chief Usher is the director of rooms at Trump's Washington, D.C. hotel pic.twitter.com/Tmzwhynuys— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 23, 2017
This is far from the first administration job to go to one of the president's friends, family, or business associates. The Trump administration has been criticized by ethics watchdogs as nepotistic, with the most prominent examples being the roles of President Trump's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
Ivanka is a presidential assistant with an office in the White House, an official employee of the federal government. Similarly, Kushner is a senior adviser to the president, with a list of roles and responsibilities dwarfing those of many cabinet members. The extent of his role has led some to dub him the "shadow secretary of state," an acknowledgment of his powerful level of influence as compared to the actual secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
Who the chief usher role goes to may seem like a minor issue, but cases of administrations firing career officials and installing friends and associates of the president have been treated as scandals in the past.
During the Clinton administration, the firing of seven White House travel office employees, and the mere suggestion that they'd be replaced with people more proximate to the Clinton family, was treated as a massive scandal by Republicans in Congress. This included hearings by the House oversight committee, as well as scrutiny from independent counsel Robert Fiske, and later from independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
But it appears the standards surrounding this sort of thing have shifted in the past couple of decades, considering the president's daughter and son-in-law's major roles in the administration.
Harleth, for his part, does at least have some relevant experience. The chief usher is essentially tasked with setting the White House's interior aesthetic, and Harleth managed more than 100 employees as director of rooms for Trump's D.C. hotel. He'll be just the 11th chief usher since the job was made official back in 1897.