Podesta Among Obama's Picks for Service Board

WASHINGTON -- President Obama is nominating John Podesta, a key political ally, to serve on the board that helps set policies and direction for the government's national service agency, the White House announced Thursday.

Podesta, who guided Obama through the presidential transition process, is among seven people Obama picked to be on the bipartisan board of directors for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Podesta served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff. He heads the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy group that he helped create in 2003 to counteract conservative think tanks.

Steve Gunderson, a former Republican congressman now at the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit Council on Foundations, said Podesta wasn't too partisan to be on the board.

"In this town, politics and how government works is a part of everything, so you need some voices with that experience and knowledge and contacts to make it work," Gunderson said. "I think he's a professional partisan. But I don't think he's too partisan."

Obama's board member nominees include two Republicans, Marguerite Kondracke and Rick Christman. Kondracke is president and chief executive officer at America's Promise Alliance, which was founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Christman is the top executive at Employment Solutions Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps people overcome barriers to employment.

Since taking office in January 2009, Obama has made it a priority to bolster national service programs.

In April 2009, the president signed into law a $5.7 billion bill to triple the size of AmeriCorps. Both he and first lady Michelle Obama have challenged others to donate their time to causes in their neighborhoods as a way to help where government alone cannot.

John Bridgeland, former domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush, said Podesta's nomination sends "a powerful signal" about how important national service is to the Obama administration.

"He's very politically savvy," Bridgeland said of Podesta. "These issues are not always easy in the Congress."

He said Podesta could work in partnership with the Republican board members to see that the promises of the new national service law are fulfilled.

The 15-member board currently has seven members. The Senate must approve the seven nominees before they're seated, and one vacancy will remain.

Board members are not paid, but they can get reimbursed for travel expenses associated with their work.

Obama's other nominees to the board: Phyllis N. Segal, a vice president for Civic Ventures, a San Francisco-based think tank; Lisa Quiroz, the senior vice president of corporate responsibility for Time Warner Inc.; Jane Hartley, the chief executive officer of Observatory Group LLC, a macroeconomic and political advisory firm; and Matthew McCabe, a Teach For America participant.