(This post has been updated.)
You may recall the Loop reported last week that USAID Administrator Raj Shah was planning his exit. Well, Wednesday morning he’ll announce to his staff that he’s leaving the job sometime in the beginning of the new year.
Shah spoke to us Tuesday night, but gave very little insight into why he was leaving now other than the oft-cited government official reason that after six years working in the Obama administration he wanted to spend time with his family.
He is leaving the agency in the midst of its active involvement in coordinating international response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. He said the agency will have “a very responsible transition,” but added that the nation’s work combating the virus “is a multi-year leadership requirement of the United States.”
Shah, 41, has previously suggested he has an interest in running for political office one day, but said he “was not prepared to talk about that in detail now.”
“I don’t want to speculate on what I might or might not do,” he said. “I’m deeply honored to have had an opportunity to serve, and so impressed by the quality of public servants I work with every day, people who take personal risks…I see a lot of value in public service.”
Shah, who came from the private sector before joining the Obama administration in 2009, also would not say what kind of replacement President Obama might pick, or whether that person would share Shah’s vision of leveraging private investment to assist development around the world. But he said the humanitarian mission of USAID is something Obama is “passionate” about.
Shah told his staff in an e-mail that he’s leaving in February. In a statement, President Obama wished him “well as he embarks on a new chapter.”
Shah’s official announcement arrives on the same day that Cuba agreed to free USAID contractor Alan Gross. Shah faced some congressional criticism over a USAID-run Cuban Twitter account that the Associated Press reported was created to stir unrest in the country. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who went to Cuba to bring Gross home early Wednesday morning, criticized Shah at a hearing over the Twitter program and accused him and the Obama administration of not doing everything they could to free Gross.
USAID spokesman Matthew Herrick said there is no connection between the two news events. A senior White House official, asked about it on a call about Gross’s release, said, “It’s merely a coincidence of timing.”