Former Louisville Mayor and Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson told a group at the University of Louisville that “it was cool” but exhausting to serve in the White House and, at his age, he’d be unlikely to do it again. The 70-year-old Abramson discussed his three years as President Obama’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs last week as part of the UofL Urban and Public Affairs Speaker Series.
Abramson was one of just 43 people whose offices were in the West Wing working directly with the president. He praised Obama, calling him a quick study with “a very impressive intellect” who could get succinct answers and understand complicated issues in 15-minute meetings.
The five-term former mayor said he enjoyed pushing the president’s agenda and discussing issues with governors, mayors and county officials both democrats and republicans. Abramson “wasn’t involved in the political side of the White House operation” but chuckled when pointing out that his old office is now occupied by President Trump’s controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart News.
Abramson says taxpayers would be surprised to learn that he had to pay for any guests he took the White House mess hall out of his own pocket, even public officials on official business. He did manage to smuggle a leather coaster with the words “White House Situation Room” out of the Situation Room, which Abramson says is actually three rooms.
As for his own career, Abramson said: “I’m not so sure if I was 34 again that I would run for office” in today’s political climate. In 2014, Abramson said he turned down former Governor Steve Beshear’s suggestion that he pursue the job as head of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System because he’d be dealing with 16 KCTCS presidents, not directly with students. Abramson is currently an executive-in-residence at Bellarmine University.
Oh, and he didn’t actually “steal” the coaster. Abramson says he asked permission to take it and was told he was the first person who ever asked before taking the memento.
The next free, public talk in the speaker series is scheduled for March 23 at noon. Mary Ellen Weiderwohl, Louisville Forward chief for Louisville metro government is the scheduled speaker.