- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez yesterday announced the promotion of Deputy Chief of Staff Robert L. Woodson Jr. to chief of staff for the department.
"Rob brings a vast experience in housing and community development," said Mr. Martinez. "He has a tremendous grasp of the issues and challenges facing this department and possesses the kind of people skills that make him a real asset to the HUD family and the Bush administration."
As chief of staff, Mr. Woodson will help manage a staff of more than 9,000 employees and a $30 billion budget. He replaces Daniel Murphy, who is moving to the private sector.
"I am looking forward … to pursuing the secretary's priorities, including simplifying the home-buying process, narrowing the gap for minorities to achieve the American dream of homeownership and … ending chronic homelessness," Mr. Woodson said yesterday.
In a speech last year to the National Association of Realtors, Mr. Woodson said other HUD priorities were to increase the supply of affordable housing, improve HUD's Section 8 housing program and review programs that assist with down payments for homes.
The 2003 Bush administration budget addresses the American Dream Downpayment Fund, which is intended to give states funds for grants or loans to help low-income families buy their first homes, he said. The 2003 budget calls for $200 million for the program, which is currently funded at $50 million.
The American Dream program is a critical "wealth-building concept for those families who have now gotten off welfare and gotten their first or second job," Mr. Woodson explained.
"We want to get to people who have begun to experience a level of autonomy and self-sufficiency and keep them moving up the ladder and prevent them from falling back into poverty," he said.
These families need to acquire assets, he added, "and homeownership is a chief way for people to have that."
Mr. Woodson is the son of author and longtime community activist Robert L. Woodson Sr., founder of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE).
In his youth, Mr. Woodson worked for several years at NCNE and helped lead a national project that identified exemplary grass-roots community groups.
During the 1980s, he worked with HUD officials to craft innovative legislation that would allow resident management and tenant ownership in HUD programs. President Reagan later signed the measure into law.
Mr. Woodson Jr. has worked on Capitol Hill for numerous House and Senate committees as well as members of Congress, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, and Rep. Bob Inglis, South Carolina Republican.
In the late 1990s, he joined George W. Bush's presidential campaign as a policy adviser for housing and community development issues.
Mr. Woodson Jr. "understands the worlds of politics and community," the senior Mr. Woodson said yesterday. "He's also one of the few people I know who really understands the U.S. budget."
Asked about his son's new role as "gatekeeper" at HUD, Mr. Woodson Sr., predicted he will also be "a bridge builder for Mel Martinez. He'll be gatekeeper for some, bridge to others."

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