“From the campaign trail to the White House, Stephen Goepfert has been by my side,” Biden said in a statement. “In moments big, small and extraordinary, he has been a trusted and loyal confidant that everyone counted on and who always delivered. Jill and I will miss Stephen, but we are proud that he will continue to serve the American people in his new role in the Biden-Harris administration as he continues his career in public service.”
The first White House staff member Biden sees most mornings, and the last he sees nearly every night, Goepfert’s tenure as Biden’s “bodyman” was marked by a keen understanding of cadence and the details, both big and small, that drive a man who has been. a public position for more than four decades, according to senior advisers.
While he may not be a household name, Goepfert is hard to miss: He’s the one sporting a beard in nearly every photo of Biden that includes staff, appearing on television to make remarks at the podium before a major Biden address or emerging in silence. to pass a note to Biden during a public event.
Goepfert will be succeeded by Jacob Spreyer, who currently serves as the White House’s official receptionist.
“I’ve worked with and seen a lot of people over the years, Stephen is at the top,” said White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. “It’s hard, grueling work, and no one has done it with the competence, kindness and warmth that he has.”
The period of Biden’s career brought with him a group of long-serving and fiercely loyal senior advisers, many of whom joined him in the West Wing. This group came to see Goepfert as a centerpiece of Biden’s day-to-day life and a trusted and loyal adviser in his own right.
“You’re literally at the border of where the president’s privacy and public duties meet — you have to have the right touch and the right skill set,” said Steve Ricchetti, Biden’s longtime aide and confidant. time he serves as adviser to the president. CNN. “Stephen has had the ability and willingness to help the president navigate everything he did throughout the day. That ends up being a critical role.”
Goepfert’s emergence into Biden’s inner sanctum was precipitated by the unprecedented challenge of maintaining the role in a presidential campaign amid a once-in-a-century pandemic — a public health crisis that has largely limited Biden to his home in Wilmington, Delaware, for months.
Covid precautions limited Biden and his aides to remote contact for most of his campaign. It was Goepfert who was physically there to help set up those Zoom calls, media interviews, adjust speeches and comments, connect donor calls, assemble the briefing book and finalize notes.
And according to Annie Tomasini, one of the only other aides with regular physical access to Biden, she does just about anything else that’s required at the campaign’s height.
“You, Stephen did,” Tomasini, who has been with Biden for more than a decade and is now the White House’s director of operations in the Oval Office. “I don’t think people can understand the pressures on him.”
Goepfert’s efforts resonated with Biden’s senior team, and Biden, a politician who close advisers have long said is buoyed and buoyed by personal connection, something sorely lacking in his pandemic environment.
Advisers would soon learn that Goepfert would meet with supporters, sometimes meeting them during the day, sometimes through letters to the then-candidate, and track down their phone numbers for Biden to call and make a connection.
“He understands that the president wants, and that he’s at his best, when he’s with the American people,” Tomasini said.
It was a practice that continued as Biden began to venture into the later period of the campaign, making sure that the tried and true practice of photo lines dominated by politicians and donors included families who had sent letters to Biden.
“There is nothing President Biden values more than a genuine personal connection with the people he meets along the way,” Ricchetti said. “How his personal assistant treats other people around him is vitally important as an expression of who the president is, and Stephen is simply phenomenal.”
Goepfert’s path to the Biden team began in the Obama White House, where he served as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Correspondence. It was there that Ricchetti, then-Vice President Biden’s chief of staff, noticed both his writing skills and his personable nature and brought him in to serve as a senior adviser.
When Biden’s former personal aide left and the campaign searched for a replacement, Ricchetti thought Goepfert, who he described as having a keen understanding of how a White House works from his tenure in the Obama administration, it would be a perfect fit.
Goepfert would continue in the role when Biden takes office in January 2021, becoming the first gay personal assistant to a president. It’s a “first” that Goepfert has discussed with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first LGBTQ person to hold the role.
“Representation matters and that’s very important to him,” Jean-Pierre said.
It’s a close relationship that offered room for some levity and perspective during some of the most intense moments of Biden’s first 19 months in office.
Tomasini recalled sitting quietly in a presidential motorcade with Biden and his man at a particularly important time on a trip abroad. Goepfert looked around and noted that it was a far cry from the days in Wilmington when the trio had piled into Goepfert’s car in a hurry to catch a train for a campaign trip.
Biden laughed at the thought.
“He’s got a real humility that’s just a real asset,” Tomasini said.