According to two people with knowledge of the first lady’s hiring process, Natalie Jones, a former deputy chief of protocol appointed by President Barack Obama, is a leading candidate to be the White House’s new social secretary.
“I am putting together a professional and highly-experienced team which will take time to do properly,” Trump said in the statement. “I am excited to be organizing and bringing together such a dynamic and forward thinking group of individuals who will work together to make our country better for everyone.”
Trump has also hired Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a New York party planner known for organizing the celeb-laden Met Gala, as a senior adviser, according to another source with knowledge of that hire.
As chief of staff, Reynolds, who formed an event planning business with friends in Ohio after her time in the Bush White House, will be responsible for representing the long-distance first lady in the East Wing. Reynolds said in a statement that staffing the White House Visitors Office and opening the executive mansion for public tours is a priority.
“The first lady is thoughtfully selecting her team, establishing the office of the first lady and supporting her husband President Trump,” Reynolds said.
The mix of Washington veterans and a New York socialite indicates that the new first lady is turning to people both inside and out of her circle as she seeks to find her footing in her high-profile role.
Trump’s decision to remain in New York for at least the next six months to look after her young son, Barron, creates a novel situation for her staff. Winston Wolkoff will remain in New York. Reynolds and presumably Jones will work in Washington.
Trump has not yet given a full indication of how — or how much — she plans to use the platform of first lady. She was a rare presence on the campaign trail and, so far, has held no public events. She has said she wants to work on a campaign to prevent cyberbullying of adolescents, but she could take on other causes and projects.
If it follows tradition, Trump’s team will be responsible for helping the first lady implement an agenda of her choosing, as well as planning arts and cultural events at the White House.
Jones, Reynolds and Winston Wolkoff come from widely varied backgrounds and would be among the most senior staffers in the East Wing.
Jones was a finance director at the Democratic National Committee and for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before taking the powerful protocol job at the State Department. It would be highly unusual for a holdover from another party to be selected for the sensitive job of social secretary, which involves planning events at the White House — from high-stakes state dinners to Easter-egg rolls — that communicate the president and first lady’s agenda to the world.
Reynolds is the daughter-in-law of Republican fundraiser Mercer Reynolds. Before heading to the Bush White House in 2004, she was a third-grade teacher in Ohio. Reynolds, who has deep ties to the Republican establishment, links the Trump administration to the old guard of the GOP.
“Lindsay has deep experience of the inner workings of the White House, she’s a natural leader, and she already knows the Trump family through her work on the presidential debates and the Republican convention,” said Lea Berman, a former White House social secretary under George W. Bush.
It’s unclear who will serve as gatekeeper to the first lady. Winston Wolkoff, who once worked for Anna Wintour at Vogue magazine and has been friends with Trump for more than 20 years, functioned in that capacity during the planning of the inaugural weekend events.
Trump’s new staff will also have to work quickly to get up to speed in a White House that has been moving at a rapid clip — already, the president has nominated a Supreme Court justice, ordered a wall constructed on the border with Mexico and instituted a travel ban that affects several predominantly Muslim countries.
Although the first lady’s team is getting a late start in the East Wing, it will be able to easily rely on the permanent staff of the White House.
“There is a certain continuity,” said longtime White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier. “We had administrations where a first lady was not too involved with the run of the place because she was interested in other things” — notably, Rosalynn Carter and Hillary Clinton, he said. “It worked fine. Frankly, the social secretary knew very well how to run the place.”