Administration's Highest-Ranking Black Official Gets Promoted
Ja'Ron Smith, one of the few African Americans working in the White House -- if not the only -- has been promoted to Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Office of American Innovation (OAI). The office, which is directed by Jared Kushner (of course), is charged with making recommendations to the president on “policies and plans that improve Government operations and services, improve the quality of life for Americans now and in the future, and spur job creation." Of the president’s 48 Assistants and Deputy Assistants, Smith is the only African American. He joined the Trump administration in 2017 as the Director of Urban Affairs and Revitalization in the Office of the President. Before linking with the MAGA White House, he was the Director of External Affairs at Generation Opportunity, a center-right political advocacy organization focused on economic policy and aimed at young adults. He also spent time on Capitol Hill. The Cleveland, OH native served as a Legislative Aide to then-Congressman Mike Pence and as an aide to Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). In a podcast, Smith discussed how he came to become a conservative. “Growing up where I grew up, Republicans were like a bad word,” he said. “I had to learn what it meant to be a conservative. It really was, you know, cultivating individuality ... Well, that’s what I’m all about because I think everyone has talents and gifts, if given the right opportunity. And so that really led me on a whole pursuit of truth and figuring out what’s the right way to revitalize and create opportunity for people.” The 2004 Howard University graduate, who earned his Master of Divinity from the HBCU in 2012, began his career as a Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch. Since its creation, the OAI has focused on two primary IT initiatives: the publication of an IT Modernization Report and the creation of a Centers of Excellence program to drive agencies to the cloud and better data management. The Federal Times described the OAI’s approach as running contrary to what is typical for most administrations that come into office: assume the prior management strategy is flawed and dismantle that system. That cycle prevents any progress. More about Smith here.