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McCaleb says successor 'must have access'

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Departing Assistant Interior Secretary - Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb refused to join the guessing game over a potential successor in a Dec. 19 press conference with Indian journalists, but he did specify some of the requirements for a potential successor.

He also made the tantalizing statement that the new BIA chief would be selected by President George W. Bush, implying that the White House was taking an active role in filling the post. "The President will make that decision," he said. "And I suspect they will make it promptly."

When asked what the nominee should require, he said, "Stamina, obviously. Perhaps I'm a little short on that, leaving after 18 months, but I'd say stamina is of vital importance."

He added, "Clearly the ability to reach out to Indian country and to understand their concerns and to represent those as effectively as he or she can."

The new nominee should set his own conditions for taking the job, McCaleb agreed. "The Assistant Secretary of the Interior has to have an unfettered opportunity in access to the Secretary of Interior and the Deputy Secretary of Interior," he said.

"I personally enjoyed that during my tenure. Secretary (J. Stephen) Griles made himself continuously available on this subject, having attended every one of the meetings we discussed. I think that's unprecedented in the Department of Interior in terms of attention from the, and access to the highest levels of the Department of Interior.

"The Secretary and I have regular meeting dates to discuss these issues so that kind of access has always been there for me, but it's absolutely essential for any Assistant Secretary of Interior for Indian Affairs."