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Aide to First Lady Takes New Post in L.A.

October 05, 2003|Edwin Chen | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Noelia Rodriguez, who left Los Angeles City Hall in early 2001 to become press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush, is leaving her White House job to return to Southern California.

Rodriguez will start later this month as chief of staff to billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and director of external affairs at the Broad Foundation.

Broad, a lifelong Democrat, is a native of Detroit. But he has lived in Los Angeles for four decades and contributed tens of millions to the city's museums and other cultural institutions.

He is chairman of the SunAmerica Inc. financial services company and founder-chairman of developer KB Home. He created the Broad Foundation to focus on improving public education around the country.

Rodriguez, 44, was a rare commodity in the Bush White House: She was, and remains, a Democrat, but neither then-President-elect Bush nor Laura Bush held that against her when she arrived at the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas, for a job interview.

They offered Rodriguez the post at the end of the interview; six days later, she was at work.

"From the moment I met them, they made me feel comfortable and important. They were gracious and very welcoming," Rodriguez said Saturday.

She became a close confidant of the first lady, who said in a statement: "From my early days at the White House, to the tragic aftermath of the terrorist attacks, to my recent trip to Paris and Moscow, Noelia has been a dedicated advisor. I value her honest opinions, wit and keen sense of judgment. Her ability to work with the White House press corps and members of the media throughout our nation has served me and the president's administration well. While I am sad to see her leave, I look forward to calling on her whenever I need candid advice."

In an interview, Rodriguez said she was anticipating a slightly less hectic pace in Los Angeles. "It's a good time to take this break. It's been such a great run here," she said.

Rodriguez worked frenetically right up to the end. She just returned to Washington after accompanying Mrs. Bush to Paris and Moscow, dealing with half a dozen traveling White House reporters on that trip as well as local media at each stop.

"It's bittersweet to be leaving such a wonderful lady," she said. "But it's also gratifying for me to be leaving on a high note."

Before she left Los Angeles for the White House, Rodriguez was head of the city's Democratic National Convention host committee in 2000. She also served as then-Mayor Richard Riordan's press secretary and was one of his closest advisors.

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