published Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Chip Saltsmann returns to Fleischmann chief of staff post


by Chris Carroll

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's office has announced two personnel changes.

As of Aug. 3, the congressman's chief of staff, Chip Saltsman, is back as a paid staff member after taking a two-month unpaid leave of absence to run Fleischmann's campaign.

Through a spokesman, Fleischmann confirmed the reinstatement but declined further comment.

From the beginning, Saltsman said his leave of absence amounted to following House ethics rules that require clear separation between official duties and campaign work.

And, Saltsman said, he's best at the political horse race, having run former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential run, Fleischmann's successful 2010 election and numerous other campaigns.

But the unpaid leave began two days after the website Politico published an article on June 6 that quoted Saltsman as saying he never wanted the chief of staff job and rejected it the first three times Fleischmann offered it.

During his leave time, Saltsman told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that "working for Chuck ... was not my first choice" after managing Fleischmann's 2010 win.

Saltsman said the leave had nothing to do with those comments and everything to do with Fleischmann's needs against GOP challengers Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp.

Asked twice during Saltsman's leave to confirm that statement, Fleischmann, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

Saltsman said he hasn't decided if he'll continue working with Fleischmann if the congressman is re-elected in November.

"I'll make that decision when it comes up," Saltsman said, adding that he may take another campaign-related leave of absence before Fleischmann faces 3rd District Democratic nominee Mary Headrick on Nov. 6.

The second personnel change involves a Saltsman acolyte. This weekend, Chattanooga-based campaign adviser Jordan Powell is moving back to his home state of Texas for personal reasons.

"One, I'm ready to be back in Texas. I've been away from Texas for about five years now, and I'm ready to be closer to home," the 25-year-old said in a phone interview. "Two, I'm getting married, and my fiancee and I want to live in Dallas."

Powell said he's starting his own political consulting firm "with Chuck as my first client."

Saltsman confirmed that Powell would be working for Fleischmann from a distance.

Powell worked with Saltsman during the Huckabee bid, serving as an all-purpose campaign aide. Like Saltsman, he has worked with Fleischmann since the congressman was a little-known Ooltewah attorney vying for former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp's seat in 2009.

"Jordan's been there since the beginning," Saltsman said Thursday. "We're going to miss him here."

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