Congressman Clyburn becomes Chair of the House Democratic Caucus

Jan 18, 2006

(Washington, DC) - South Carolina's Sixth District Congressman James E. Clyburn today officially became Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Clyburn was elected to the position in December, when it was announced the previous Chair Bob Menendez would be appointed to the U.S. Senate, but took office today when Menendez officially vacated his House seat.

“This is a tremendous day for me, my family and the people of South Carolina,” Congressman Clyburn said. “Thirteen years ago I came to Washington as South Carolina's first African American elected to Congress since Reconstruction. This week as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, the significance of my becoming Chair is not lost on me.”

Clyburn is the second African American to hold the position of Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the third ranking leadership position.

“I have been honored to deliver a number of speeches over the past week honoring Dr. King's life, and as I often do, I reflected on King's powerful Letter from the Birmingham City Jail in which he responded to a call from eight white clergy who told him the time was not right for King to pursue his agenda,” Congressman Clyburn said. “Just as King did in his response, I question the theory of a ‘right time’ to do anything. That is why as Chair of the Democratic Caucus I will stand up against this Administration that seem to be asking working Americans to carry the burden of their-ill fated policies on  Iraq, Social Security, taxes, health care and education. Where is the justice when there is no shared sacrifice?”

Congressman Clyburn's first official duty as Chair will come at 2:00 PM today when he joins other Democratic Leaders in the House and Senate presenting the “Democratic Declaration: Honest Leadership and Open Government” event. Clyburn’s first full Caucus meeting will be on Wednesday, February 1, when his replacement as Vice Chair will be chosen. The next day, members of the House Democratic Caucus will convene in Williamsburg, Virginia for their annual Issues Conference that will be led by Clyburn.

Clyburn's role as Chair will mean some changes in the staffing of the House Democratic Caucus office. Here are the new Caucus staff members and the roles they will be playing:

Yelberton (Yebbie) Watkins, Chief of Staff - Yebbie, a Columbia, South Carolina native, is a graduate of Duke University and Georgetown Law School. He has served as served on Congressman Clyburn's staff since he first came to Washington in 1993. Yebbie will serve double duty as Chief of Staff for the Caucus and Congressional offices.

Jaime Harrison, Executive Director - Jaime, an Orangeburg, South Carolina native, is a graduate of Yale University and Georgetown Law School. This former intern to Congressman Clyburn has served on the Congressional staff since 2003. Before joining Congressman Clyburn's office, Jaime served as Chief Operations Officer for the national education based non-profit, College Summit. At age 29, Jaime will be one of the youngest and the first African-American to serve as Executive Director. He will oversee the day-to-day operations in the Caucus office.

Lindy Birch, Director of Outreach - Lindy, a Florence, South Carolina native, is a graduate of University of South Carolina and University of Leicester, England. She came to Congressman Clyburn's Congressional staff in 1993 after working on his campaign. She will work with reaching out to Democratic organizations in and outside of Washington, DC, and constituency groups like African Americans and Latinos.

Burns Strider, Policy Director -- Burns, a native of Grenadda, Mississippi, comes to the Caucus office from Leader Pelosi's staff. Burns has eight years experience working on the Hill, and has worked closely with Clyburn over the past year in the Congressman's capacity as Chair of the Leader's Faith Working Group. Strider has worked in a freshman Member's office, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and in Leadership. He has a broad understanding and perspective of the Caucus and Congress. He will oversee the development of Democratic Caucus issues and policies.

Allie Neill, Member Services Director -- Allie, a native of Dallas, Texas, has served in this capacity for the Caucus since 2001. She joined the Caucus staff under Martin Frost's leadership, and will continue her duties in organizing the weekly Caucus meetings and serving as a liaison to Member's offices.

Wendy Hartman, Planning Director -- Wendy, a native of Annapolis, Maryland, has been on the Caucus staff for the past three years. Prior to coming to the Hill, she served as Vice President Gore's Deputy Director of Scheduling and Advance from 1994-1999. She then joined the DNC as the White House Liaison, and after the 2000 election served in a variety of roles at the DNC until moving over to the Democratic Caucus office.  She will continue her primary duty of planning and coordinating the annual Democratic Issues Conference and other special projects.

Tomica Burke, Staff Assistant -- Tomica, a native of Queens, New York, is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and will remain in her current position.. She has served as Staff Assistant since joining the Caucus staff in June 2005.

The Caucus office is located in 1420 Longworth House Office Building and can be reached by phone at (202) 226-3210 or by fax at (202) 225-9253. For now, media inquiries should be directed to Congressman Clyburn's personal office Communications Director, Hope Derrick, at the office (803) 799-1100 or by cell (803) 553-1732.