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Meyers to Leave in White House Staff Reorganization

By Paul Richter
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Presidential press secretary Dee Dee Myers, one of the White House's best-known faces, is expected to resign and yield her post to State Department spokesman Michael McCurry as part of a long-awaited staff reorganization intended to strengthen President Clinton's communications shop, officials said Thursday.

The shakeup, which is expected to be announced by Friday by Chief of Staff Leon Panetta after 87 days of deliberation, will also move Communications Director Mark Gearan into a long-range strategy and planning job.

Myers, 33, became a target of criticism amid complaints about the White House's inability to publicize its successes and to convey an impression of internal order. She has been criticized for lacking access to the White House's inner circles. Some outsiders have also said as the chief spokeswoman she reinforced the image of the White House as a preserve of the young and inexperienced.

A stalwart of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign, Myers has been one of the best-liked members of the White House staff for her good humor and quick wit. Panetta's long and public deliberations over her fate anguished her friends, particularly as she was forced to answer questions about her possible ouster in the daily briefings.

Myers' resignation, which follows the departure of several other top female aides in the White House, is likely to cause some discomfort for an administration that has boasted of its gender and racial diversity. Myers' was the White House's first female press secretary, although she never occupied the press secretary's traditional office, which was filled by her boss, Gearan.

As recently as Thursday morning, many White House staff members expected that she would be given bigger responsibilities and greater access, and would retain at least some briefing role. But Myers did not want any change in her current responsibilities and chose to resign instead.

She has been pursued for several outside jobs, including one as co-host of the CNBC network show "Equal Time," with former Republican party spokeswoman Mary Matalin. Myers has been Matalin's choice for the job, which would probably double her current $100,000 salary.

But she has also said recently she would like to return to California, where she worked for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein during Feinstein's senatorial campaign, and for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

Rumors about the impending announcement again roiled the White House Thursday as Panetta talked to staff members one by one. Myers' regular briefing was first delayed, then cancelled altogether.

In his new choice for the job, Clinton is turning to an experienced Washington hand. The 39-year-old McCurry was earlier the spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, as well as for the 1992 presidential campaign of Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., and the 1988 presidential campaign of Bruce Babbitt, now Interior secretary. Earlier, he was spokesman for Democratic senators Harrison Williams of New Jersey, Daniel P. Moynihan of New York, and John Glenn of Ohio.

McCurry's campaign association with Kerrey - then a bitter Clinton foe - made some in the Clinton camp wary of him during the early days of the administration. But with an irreverent sense of humor he is considered a skilled hand in a department that has not won the best public notices.

The reorganization is also expected to see Bruce Lindsey, a Clinton confidant who carries the title of senior adviser, move to the general counsel's office as a deputy to Abner Mikva. George Stephanopoulos, also a senior adviser to Clinton, is expected to become a deputy chief of staff.

Philip Lader, deputy chief of staff for administration, is expected to change jobs with Erskine Bowles, director of the Small Business Administration.

And there may be a new head of the White House political office, whose current head, Joan Baggett, has told insiders she wants to resign. A rumored front-runner is John Emerson, who was widely praised for his efforts in coordinating the quick federal response to last year's Southern California earthquake.

Ricki Seidman plans to leave as director of scheduling to become director of Rock the Vote, a Los Angeles-based organization aimed at younger voters. Her job is expected to go to Billy Webster, a long-time Clinton ally who has worked in the U.S. Department of Education.