Melania Trump kicks off new year with new hires

Updated 12:37 PM EST, Thu January 11, 2018
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Story highlights

Melania Trump adds three key roles

The first lady's office staff now stands at 12 full-time employees

Two additional senior advisers will be based in New York City

(CNN) —  

Melania Trump is staffing up in anticipation of her second year as first lady of the United States. On Thursday, the first lady announced she has hired a director of operations, a policy director and a communications coordinator.

“I am very excited to add these quality professionals to my already stellar team,” said Trump in a statement.

The hires bring the number of full-time staffers on Trump’s official payroll to 12, still a relatively lean office for a first lady one year into her tenure. Michelle Obama and Laura Bush both had approximately 25 staffers by the time their husbands left office.

In October, Trump’s communications director Stephanie Grisham discussed the first lady’s bare bones employment strategy, telling Fox News, “as with all things that she does, she is being very deliberate in her hiring, focusing on quality over quantity.”

New hires

Justin Caporale takes the place of Tim Tripepi, as the new director of operations, who left Trump’s office in November after serving in the role since shortly after inauguration. Caporale has experience in operations and advance work; he’s joining the first lady’s office from the West Wing side of the White House, where he was lead advance representative in the office of Presidential Advance.

His main focus will be the planning and execution of events and travel for Trump. The first lady will likely bulk up her 2018 schedule compared to 2017, increasing the number of official appearances and foreign and domestic trips she took last year.

Caporale will also manage “day-to-day logistical operations for the East Wing,” according to a statement.

Reagan Thompson joins the East Wing as director of policy and will presumably help develop a more robust strategy for the first lady’s causes, which have so far been broadly centered around helping children.

Grisham said that although the first lady announced the basic premise of a platform last September at a luncheon in New York City, during the United Nations General Assembly, that wasn’t to be takten as her ultimate focal point.

“The first lady looks forward to announcing her formal platform in the coming months,” Grisham told CNN.

Michelle Obama officially launched “Let’s Move,” her initiative to help stop childhood obesity, in February of 2010; Laura Bush kicked off her “Ready to Read, Ready to Learn” literacy and education platform in July 2001 with a summit on early childhood cognitive development.

Thompson, as policy director, will likely be involved. Thompson, who comes to the East Wing from the National Security Council’s Middle East Directorate, will primarily spend her time on Trump’s policies and initiatives, according to the press release. Prior to working for the National Security Council, Thompson was policy and communications adviser for then-Congressman Mike Pompeo.

Annie LeHardy is joining the East Wing from the West Wing to serve as communications coordinator. Her West Wing title had been press assistant.

She will continue many of the same duties she had there – assisting with press and communications efforts, and media outreach – only now her primary focus will be the first lady, not the President. Grisham will remain as the sole spokesperson for the first lady.

“Each person filling their respective and vital role has shown true professionalism in their chosen career, and I am confident they will enhance my work on behalf of children everywhere while helping me further expand my role as first lady of the United States,” said Trump in her statement.

Caporale and LeHardy started in their new positions this week, while Thompson is dividing her time between the NSC and the first lady’s office until the end of the month, at which point she will move to the East Wing full time.