Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced a series of senior staff changes today with the departure of her Chief of Staff for 8 years, John Lawrence. Today, Pelosi named Nadeam Elshami as her new Chief of Staff and George Kundanis as Deputy Chief of Staff with an expanded role and responsibilities, while promoting Diane Dewhirst to Deputy Chief of Staff and Drew Hammill to Communications Director and Senior Advisor, replacing Elshami.
"On behalf of my colleagues, I want to thank John Lawrence for his 38 years of service to the House of Representatives," Leader Pelosi said. "Few staff members have ever had the impact that John has had on so many laws that have been enacted in his years in my office as Speaker and as Democratic Leader, and with Chairman George Miller. I wish John and Deborah well and will always value their friendship."
"For the past six years, Nadeam has been a key communications strategist, spokesperson and senior advisor," said Leader Pelosi. "I know my colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus will benefit from his leadership as he transitions to Chief of Staff."
In addition to Lawrence’s departure and Elshami as the new Chief of Staff, Pelosi announced the following changes to her senior staff:
- George Kundanis, Deputy Chief of Staff, with an expanded role for legislative and Member responsibilities;
- Diane Dewhirst, Deputy Chief of Staff, with a portfolio focused on strategic planning; and
- Drew Hammill, Communications Director and Senior Advisor.
John Lawrence, chief of staff to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi since 2005, will leave Capitol Hill on February 1st. Lawrence, who served as chief of staff during both of Pelosi’s terms as Speaker, is the longest serving staff person currently in the House, according to National Journal.
Lawrence came to Capitol Hill with newly-elected Congressman George Miller (D-CA) in 1975, serving briefly as legislative director before becoming Miller’s chief of staff, a position he held until 1993. During that period, he also served as associate staff to the Budget Committee, assistant to the Democratic Policy Committee, and staff director of the Subcommittee on Labor Standards.
In 1993, with Miller serving as chairman, Lawrence became staff director of the House Natural Resources Committee, working extensively on legislation affecting western water policy, energy and national parks. Six years later, he became Miller’s chief of staff on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, working on labor rights, workers’ compensation, and education policy, including the “No Child Left Behind” law.
Other major legislation in which he played a significant role includes the foster care and adoption reform law of 1980, the 1975 special education law, reform of federal water policy and oil and gas development, and extending workers’ compensation law to cover occupational diseases. He also played a key role in the creation of national parks honoring World War II’s “Rosie the Riveter” and hundreds of African-American sailors killed in the Port Chicago (California) explosion of 1944.
Lawrence holds a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California (Berkeley), and an undergraduate degree from Oberlin College. He is married to Dr. Deborah Phillips, president of the Foundation for Child Development, and has two sons, Sam and Elijah.
Pelosi has named Nadeam Elshami as her new Chief of Staff. Elshami started working for Pelosi in 2007 and currently serves as Communications Director and Senior Advisor. Elshami led messaging efforts around the successful passage of the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform legislation, among other historic pieces of legislation under Pelosi’s speakership. As Communications Director, Elshami has led the restructuring of Caucus communications operations with an emphasis on rapid response and new media outreach and expansion. Elshami previously served as Deputy Communications Director and Senior Advisor.
Elshami, a 21-year veteran of the House and Senate, previously served as Deputy Communications Director and Senior Advisor to Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, where he was a top spokesman to the Assistant Democratic Leader and served as a liaison to House leadership on communications coordination. For 6 years, Elshami served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. In that role, he advised the Congresswoman, a chief deputy whip, on policy and communications as well as managed staff for her Washington congressional office.
Elshami previously served as Deputy Press Secretary to Senator Barbara Boxer of California. His first job on Capitol Hill was in the Senate mailroom. Throughout his two decades on Capitol Hill, Elshami has worked on policy issues, including voter and consumer protection, and immigration reform. He holds a B.A. from the University of Evansville in international business. He is married to Stacy Elshami, his wife of nearly 20 years. The couple has three children.
George Kundanis will continue to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff, with an expanded role for legislative and Member responsibilities. With over 30 years of Capitol Hill experience, Kundanis has worked for every top Democrat in the House of Representatives in the last two decades. Kundanis has been with Pelosi since 2002. He previously served as a special assistant to Pelosi.
Prior to joining Pelosi’s office in 2002, Kundanis was a special assistant to former Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO). From 1995 until 2002, he served as the Executive Director of the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee. Previously, he worked for Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA) for 17 years.
The Almanac of the Unelected has called him, "a master of floor procedure, a key player in building Democratic message strategies, and an able tactician on crafting policies."
Kundanis hold an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. George and his partner, Karen Lightfoot, live in Washington, D.C.
Diane Dewhirst has been promoted to the role of Deputy Chief of Staff with a portfolio focused on strategic planning for Leader Pelosi. Dewhirst has worked in a wide variety of positions throughout her career in national politics. Dewhirst started in party politics at the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, where she first met then-California Democratic Party State Chair Nancy Pelosi.
Dewhirst's career then took her to the U.S. Senate where she served as Director of Communications for Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-ME). She then consulted on various projects for the Clinton Administration, worked for First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Clinton/Gore '96 as well as the 2000 Democratic National Convention. In addition, she consulted for numerous organizations including the Smithsonian Institution, the Children's Defense Fund, Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, and Alliance for Justice. Dewhirst returned to the Hill in 2004 and since then has served as a senior advisor to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Dewhirst lives on Capitol Hill with her husband, Bob Hickmott, and their three children.
Pelosi has named Drew Hammill as Communications Director & Senior Advisor. Hammill started working for Pelosi in 2006 and currently serves as Deputy Communications Director and Press Secretary. Hammill led message and strategy coordination efforts around the then-Speaker Pelosi’s flagship energy and environmental initiatives including the Energy Independence and Security Act, enacted in December 2007; the historic “Green the Capitol” initiative; and the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. He also advised Pelosi on message and policy strategy around the successful efforts to pass LGBT-inclusive legislation, including the historic passage of legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
As Deputy Communications Director and Press Secretary, Hammill has led communications planning efforts for Pelosi and the House Democratic Caucus, served as a top spokesman for Leader Pelosi and an advisor on communications strategy.
Hammill previously served as Press Secretary to Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida. He got his start on Capitol Hill as a press assistant to former Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.
Hammill holds undergraduate degrees in political science and communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as Student Body President. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. Hammill is married to Jason Mida.