Phil Wise, the 25-year-old director of field operations in Jimmy Carter's campaign for the presidency, apparently has decided not to accept the post of executive director of the Democratic National Committee.
Wise, Carter's choice for the job, met with the President at the White House yesterday to discuss his future.
A Carter aide, although not privy to the conversation, said later that Wise almost certainly will not accept the executive director's post. Others who have spoken to Wise recently said he appeared to be leaning toward rejection of the job but had not made a firm decision.
The executive director is the head of the committee's professional staff and is responsible for supervising its day-to-day operations.
Wise could not be reached for comment last night.
Former Maine Gov. Kenneth M. Curtis, who assumed the chairmanship of the DNC Friday after being chosen by Carter, said yesterday that he first became aware that Wise might not accept the job as executive director about a week ago.
Saying that Wise "may prefer to go back to Georgia," Curtis said he cited personal reasons for his unexpected reluctance to stay in Washington. He said he did not press the young Georgian for details.
Both Curtis and White House press secretary Jody Powell said Wise remains Carter's choice. "He has been told both by the President and Ken Curtis that if he wants the job, it's his," Powell said.
For weeks Wise has been assumed to be the next executive director. At the DNC meeting here Friday, in fact, Curtis named him to the post and appointed several other key DNC officials
But Curtis said yesterday he did not consider that appointment "official" because he was aware that Wise was considering not serving as executive director.
"He told me that he has had some question about it for quite some time," Curtis said. "He said he had continued (with the campaign) and gotten in deeper and deeper.
"I know everybody thinks highly of him," Curtis added. "I told him it was strictly up to him . . . I know the President would very much like to have him."
An electrical engineer by training, Wise is a native of Carter's hometown of Plains, Ga., and once was in the Sunday school class that Carter taught at the Plains Baptist Church. He began working in Washington at the DNC earlier this month.
Powell said that when Wise came to Washington "he had not made any commitment" to stay.
"He is considering whether he wants to do any sort of works in Washington," Powell said. "He is considering just getting away from the whole political business for a while."
Powell said the President was aware of Wise's feelings several days before yesterday's White House meeting. He said he had no idea whom Carter might select in place of Wise.
A White House aide speculated that Wise "may have just gotten up here, looked at it all, and decided he didn't want to take the plunge. He may be the smartest one of the lot."
The aide added that there is "a very good chance" that eventually Wise will decide "he wants to go to work here in Washington."
Curtis, who was at home in Maine, said he expects to meet with Wise at the DNC today and that as far as he knew Wise had not made a definite decision to reject the executive director's job.