Biden’s head of personnel to leave White House for UNICEF

The White House is seen from South Lawn prior to an event on Monday, November 15, 2021.
Greg Nash
A view of the White House in this Nov. 16, 2021, file photo.

President Biden on Friday announced that Cathy Russell, the head of the powerful White House personnel office, would leave to assume the role of executive director of UNICEF.

“We will miss Cathy. But our loss is UNICEF’s gain, because children around the world will lead richer, safer, and healthier lives as a direct result of Cathy’s leadership in this new role,” Biden said in a lengthy statement, describing Russell as “exceptionally well-prepared” to lead UNICEF.

Biden said that Gautam Raghavan, deputy director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel since Biden took office, would replace Russell as its director.

Russell, who has led the personnel office since the start of Biden’s term as president, will be one of the highest-level officials to depart the White House under Biden thus far. Biden’s first White House staff secretary also departed the role earlier this year and was replaced by Neera Tanden.

A longtime adviser to the Bidens, Russell served in the White House and State Department during the Obama administration. She was U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues under former President Obama, a role that Biden highlighted in Friday’s announcement.

UNICEF said that Russell would assume the role of executive director early next year. Henrietta Fore, the organization’s current leader, welcomed her appointment.

“Catherine Russell will bring a wealth of expertise to UNICEF’s work, and I am delighted to hand over to someone with her knowledge, experience, and deep care for children and women,” Fore said in a statement. “I have no doubt that UNICEF and the world’s children will be in capable hands under her leadership.”

UNICEF, or the United Nations Children’s Fund, is an agency housed within the United Nations that is responsible for giving humanitarian assistance to children throughout the world. It is headquartered in New York City. 

Tags Barack Obama Catherine Russell Cathy Russell Joe Biden Neera Tanden

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