Ford chief aide leaves for private sector

Mark Schuermann has left his position as chief of staff to Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) and will start tomorrow as a managing director at Public Strategies, the Texas-based public-relations and lobbying firm where Bush-Cheney campaign adviser Mark McKinnon serves as vice chairman.

Tennessee native Schuermann, a former communications director for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), has spent five years leading Ford’s office. He began his career working for Ford’s father, former Rep. Harold Ford Sr. (D-Tenn, 1975-1997), and the two families remain extremely close.

“He’s the best,” said Ford Jr., who was 16 years old when he met Schuermann. “He’s a friend. He’s a great chief of staff. I don’t think I’ve lost him; I think he’s getting a great set of experiences.”

Public Strategies continues to beef up its 30-strong Washington lobbying team, which includes former Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-Texas) and Bush administration veteran James Fuller. The firm boosted its crisis communications profile last summer by signing up CNOOC, the Chinese-government-owned oil company that mounted a failed bid to take over Unocal.

“I am so pleased to have this opportunity to work with such a terrific team,” Schuermann said, who thanked Ford and Reid for helping him make a home on the Hill. “Public Strategies is the best at what they do. I’m proud to be here.”

Although Democratic campaign consultant Jack Martin founded Public Strategies, the firm is often closely linked with the GOP establishment thanks to McKinnon, who served as chief media adviser during President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. McKinnon issued a statement hailing Schuermann’s arrival.

“Mark brings incredible value to our clients. He has broad experience in directing strategic initiatives and will add depth to our Hill contacts,” McKinnon said.