In her new role Barnes will coordinate the administration’s domestic policy—heavily focused on the economic stimulus plan—and work to keep a myriad of federal agencies on the same page when it comes to new initiatives. The council also monitors policy implementation.
Barnes, who friends call a strategic wonk, said she never planned to work in the White House.
Obama’s is the only presidential campaign she has worked on - unless you count the time she sold cupcakes for Democratic candidate George McGovern when she was 8.
But Melody Barnes counts a high school trip to Washington with a program called Presidential Classroom as a moment that sparked her career path.
“I was just excited about it. I guess there’s something in your DNA,“ she said.
In law school at the University of Michigan, she worked with academic leaders to increase diversity on the campus. After graduating in 1989, she went to work in the New York law firm Shearman and Sterling. But the pull to public policy became too strong.
CALM ON THE HILL
By 1992, she learned of a rare opening at the House Judiciary Committee - and went for it.
When Obama tapped Barnes as his Domestic Policy Council director Nov. 24, Kennedy called her “a rare talent with [an] impressive intellect” that “will serve President Obama well.“
Former coworkers say she will bring confidence to the White House, where domestic policy input will come from cabinet secretaries and key interest groups who helped Obama win the fall campaign.
“You’ve got to be tough, firm and collaborative and work in a collegial way, and she’ll be perfect at doing that,“ said Winnie Stachelberg, a senior vice president at the Center for American Progress. She pointed to Barnes’ work managing senior fellows at the center—including Secretary-designate for Health and Human Services Tom Daschle—and partnering with groups like the Service Employees International Union, as Barnes did to host a presidential candidate health care forum in 2007.
Headed For The West Wing | Inauguration 2009