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Feb
19

OIRA chief’s buttoned-down image belies eccentric roots

From: E&E Publishing/Greenwire

Emily Yehle and Robin Bravender, E&E reporters

Second of two stories on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Click here to read the first story.

Before Howard Shelanski became the Obama administration’s regulatory czar, he was braving chickens strutting around a hotel room in Chile.

The occasion was a trip with his extended family, a close-knit brood whose unconventional adventures contrast Shelanski’s buttoned-down reputation.

“In our family, you’re more judged by your ability to enjoy yourself with chickens in the hotel room” more than by professional accolades, Shelanski’s father, Michael, offered in a recent interview. “The only thing I know for sure is he has a reputation everywhere he’s taught as a very good and amusing teacher.”

It’s a rare glimpse into the personality of a man who’s proved as mysterious as the office he now leads: the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Shelanski has led OIRA since June, acting as gatekeeper for the hundreds of rules that agencies send to his desk.

But unlike his outspoken predecessor, Cass Sunstein, Shelanski has stayed behind the scenes. He’s lauded as nice but smart, receptive but decisive.

“He’s sort of a regular guy,” said David Vladeck, a law professor at Georgetown University who worked with Shelanski at the Federal Trade Commission. “He’s very down to earth, he’s a great listener. He often is the last person to speak because he really is listening.”

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