In one of his first official acts, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) on Monday removed member Jack Evans as council chairperson pro-tempore and replaced him with Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3).
The chairperson pro-tempore position is largely ceremonial, but Brown's decision represents a stinging setback for Evans (D-Ward 2), the longest serving council member. Evans, who declined comment on the change, has held the role for the past 12 years.
"The chairman has the right to pick whoever he wants," said Evans, known to be one of the most fiscally conservative members of the council.
Brown's decision, which the council unanimously approved in a voice-vote, signals Cheh's growing influence.
Last year, Cheh campaigned hard for Brown in Ward 3, where some voters were concerned about published reports he was in financial distress.
Evans did not wade heavily into the chairman's race, but was a supporter of former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). Brown supported Gray.
In an interview last week, Cheh said her selection is a sign she will be a partner with Brown in helping to run the council.
"I think Kwame is expecting me to substantively provide some assistance," Cheh said. "I don't know what shape it will be, but I am quite ready to do that."
As an apparent consolation prize, Brown has named Evans as the co-chair of the subcommittee that will oversee redistricting. Brown has also given Evans, chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, oversight over the Washington Convention & Sports Authority.
"I imagine Jack is probably delighted with that," Cheh said. "It's the kinds of projects he seems to love and Jack is going to be right in the eye of everything with Finance and Revenue and with the convention center and with redistricting."
In other personnel move, Brown also followed through with plans to replace Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) as the council designee on the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority board of directors. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) will replace Graham on the board. The move had been expected to be announced before Christmas, but was delayed as Graham tried to keep the post.
The council, which will hold the first legislative meeting of the new session Tuesday, also voted Monday to approve John Hoellen as acting general counsel, Jennifer Budoff as budget director and Nyasha Smith, as council secretary.
Budoff is the former staff director for the Economic Development Committee. Smith had been an aide to Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7).