Correction appended: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the president of Oberlin College. His name is Marvin Krislov.
University alum and Ann Arbor native Eugene Kang has come a long way since his unsuccessful bid against City Council member Stephen Rapundalo (D-Ward 2) for a City Council seat in 2005 as a 21-year-old undergraduate.
Now 24, Kang has been noted as one of the most unlikely members of the Obama administration in his capacity as special assistant to the president.
Kang’s new position, with duties similar to those of a personal secretary, places him in the Executive Office of the President, which consists of staff who have direct contact with the president. As the special assistant, Kang is titled as a third-level senior staff member.
Paul Dimond, a former special assistant on economic policy to then-President Bill Clinton said that Kang’s position in the new administration means he’ll be side-by-side with President Barack Obama during most of his daily activities.
“He’s the guy who’s always around him,’ Dimond said. “He does whatever the president wants him to do.”
Dimond, now chairman of the board for McKinley, Inc. and an attorney with Miller Canfield, a law firm, said he was excited to learn of Kang’s role as one of Obama’s youngest and closest advisers.
“It’s about luck and seizing an opportunity,” Dimond said. “I think it’s terrific.”
Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, who taught Kang at the University of Michigan, seemed unsurprised by Kang’s recent exposure in national politics.
“Eugene Kang impressed me in class as thoughtful and sophisticated,” Krislov said. “He also was highly motivated to delve into politics and policy issues. I am very happy for him and am confident he will excel.”
One of his first major experiences in politics was his 2005 run for the Ann Arbor City Council.
Kang’s City Council campaign platform included a push for affordable housing options and opposition to tax increases. Since the early primary was in August, though, many of Kang’s potential student supporters were out of town. He lost the bid by a mere 90 votes.
“I think he (Kang) was very savvy, he ran an excellent campaign that was well-thought out. He was a tough challenge,” Rapundalo said, about his former opponent.
Kang’s growing exposure on the national political stage can be attributed to his early role in the Obama movement.
Kang also served as the call-time manager for the Obama for America 2008 Presidential Campaign. He was one of fourteen members of the Obama’s presidential exploratory committee, which was formed in January of 2007 as one of the first steps in his run for the presidency.