- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2011

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has tapped two Capitol Hill veterans to help him trumpet his “ambitious agenda” to the public after a string of personnel blunders threatened to obscure any progress during his first year at the helm of the city.

Mr. Gray appointed Sheila Bunn, a staff member for D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton since 1995, to be his deputy chief of staff.

Pedro Ribeiro, who recently served as deputy chief of staff for Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, will lead Mr. Gray’s communications team.

Mr. Ribeiro replaces Linda Wharton-Boyd, who will transfer to the Department of Health to serve as a senior adviser to its director, Dr. Mohammad N. Akhter.

Together Mr. Ribeiro and Ms. Bunn bring more than two decades of congressional experience. Both are longtime D.C. residents — Ms. Bunn was born and raised in the city — yet bring a Capitol Hill perspective to local affairs.

“The pace of media has changed and it’s a 24/7 world,” Christopher Murphy, the mayor’s chief of staff, said Monday at a press briefing. “Pedro and Sheila have experienced that firsthand, and I think that kind of speedy reaction will help us advance the mayor’s agenda.”

Ms. Bunn, a Ward 8 resident, will be paid $150,000 per year. Mr. Ribeiro, who lives in Columbia Heights, will make $120,000.

Mr. Gray downplayed talk of a “shake-up” on his staff in light of the early miscues that prompted investigations by the D.C. Council and a House committee that oversees D.C. affairs.

The U.S. Attorney for the District is also looking into claims by a minor mayoral candidate who says he was paid and offered a job by Mr. Gray’s campaign team to bash incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty last year on the campaign trail.

Both appointees said they had no reservations about joining the mayor, despite the allegations.

Mr. Ribeiro, who met Mr. Gray at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School in Brookland when he dropped off his child for the first day of school, said “the only reassurance I needed was talking to the mayor.”

“You factor in everything when you go into a new job,” Ms. Bunn said. “Did I factor in that specifically? No.”

She said she met Mr. Gray when he worked at Covenant House — a crisis center for homeless youth — and “had no hesitation in coming to work for the mayor.”

Mr. Gray’s previous pick to for deputy chief of staff, Andi Pringle, lasted 10 days on the job before revelations she had voted in a D.C. election while living in Maryland forced her to resign.

The mayor works closely with Mrs. Norton and said he has known Ms. Bunn for a long time. Part of her mission will be to relay the mayor’s agenda to the public.

Mr. Gray said he felt progress in the city, including a reduced homicide rate, has been clouded over by the investigations.

“I don’t think what we’ve done has gotten out as strongly as it should,” he said.

Mr. Gray characterized the decision to transfer Ms. Wharton-Boyd to the health department as a mutual one, because she had worked on health initiatives in the past.

She was paid $160,000 per year in her communications position and is expected to have a salary closer to $140,000 in her new job.

Ms. Wharton-Boyd, who previously worked at the city's health department, is tasked with “reconfiguring” the city’s approach to substance abuse issues.

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