John Garamendi has a new chief of staff

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, announced today he has hired international peace and security expert Charles “Chic” Dambach to serve as his new chief of staff.

“For decades, Chic Dambach has been a powerful voice for international peace and justice,” Garamendi said in a news release. “We’ve worked with each other to end wars and to expand the reach and influence of the Peace Corps. I am confident that in his new capacity in my Congressional office, he will be a forceful and effective advocate for a peaceful and prosperous America, something we all want.”

Chic DambachDambach from 2005 through this year was President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a network of organizations and professionals who help build sustainable peace and security worldwide. Earlier, he served as CEO of the National Peace Corps Association and as a consultant to national and international organizations including United Way of America, Phi Beta Kappa, Special Olympics, Red Cross, and Amnesty International USA. Dambach is an adjunct professor for George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs; was as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia from 1967 through 1969; and holds a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University and an MBA from Wake Forest University.

Dambach and Garamendi in 1999 created a team of returned Peace Corps volunteers to work informally with the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia to help end their border war. The team met frequently with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrea’s President Isayas Afwerki and their representatives. The team was recognized by Prime Minister Meles for “creating the momentum and the spirit which made this historic achievement (the peace agreement) possible.”

“I am tremendously honored and excited with this opportunity to work again with Congressman Garamendi,” Dambach said in his new boss’s news release. “I have admired his skills and his values for decades, and we have worked together on major conflict resolution projects in Africa as well as other causes. I look forward to helping the Congressman advance his priorities and initiatives.”

UPDATE @ 4:15 P.M.: Garamendi’s office says Dambach’s annual salary will be $110,000, well below the 2010 average of $136,588 for Congressional chiefs of staff. “Overall compensation for our staff is in the bottom quarter for Congressional offices,” spokesman Matthew Kravitz said in an e-mail.

Garamendi in December 2009 had tapped Scott Fay, a former senior aide to U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, as his chief of staff. Fay was succeeded last year by Debbi Gibbs, who left the job about a month ago.

UPDATE @5:02 P.M.: Gary Cohen did a stint as Garamendi’s chief of staff between Fay and Gibbs; he’s now acting director of the Office of Oversight at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.