The Hill's 25 Women to Watch: Page 15 of 26

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WHITE HOUSE

KRISTINA SCHAKE

FIRST LADY’S COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR

The key to Kristina Schake’s success, says one of her closest confidants, is her ability to keep her eyes on the prize.

It’s a skill that has served the 42-year-old California native well throughout her career and undoubtedly in her current gig as first lady Michelle Obama’s communications director.

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Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, has known Schake for more than a dozen years. Before they both came to Washington, the pair co-founded the Los Angeles public affairs and strategic communications firm Griffin Schake.

“You can never get Kristina flustered,” Griffin says. “She focuses like a laser. It’s impossible to get her flustered or knock her off mission.”

Schake was former California first lady Maria Shriver’s chief strategist before coming to the White House. Since then, she has helped steer Obama’s campaign to support military families as well as her anti-childhood obesity “Let’s Move!” initiative at a time when the first lady has enjoyed consistently high approval ratings.

Griffin says his friend, who’s constantly on the road with Obama, thrives no matter what the situation, doing it all with a broad smile on her face. 

“She’s always the steady hand and steady mind when it comes to these high-pressure, high-profile, very intense campaigns,” he says.

Calling Schake “one of the most strategic minds in the business,” Griffin adds, ”You can be in the midst in the grandest hurricane, and Kristina’s will always be the calm voice of reason that always brings us back to the mission and the focus.”

While he predicts Schake can achieve “anything she wants” in the future, Griffin says, right now, the PR guru’s sharp focus is aimed solely at her work with the first lady.

“I don’t think she’s had a single minute to look further down the road than the task at hand.”

— Judy Kurtz

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