In recent months Buckhead residents have landed some very high-profile appointments in Washington DC. First, Buckhead attorney Christopher Wray was tapped to become FBI Director (and ultimately confirmed by the Senate in a 92-5 vote). More recently, fellow Buckhead resident Nick Ayers was named as Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff. Ayers is said to already exert quite a bit of influence in the White House. One media outlet has reported that all contacts with the vice president must first be approved by Ayers.
At just 35, Ayers has had the kind of political career that those twice his age would be lucky to have. Prior to formally joining Pence in the White House, Ayers served as national chairman of the VP’s campaign in 2016. He served as executive director of the Republican Governors Association before that—the GOP added seven Governors during his tenure—and in 2010, was named one of TIME’s 40 most influential people in politics under 40. But before all that, Ayers got his political start at 19 right here in Georgia—as a driver for then State Senator Sonny Perdue, who eventually unseated Roy Barnes to become Governor of Georgia in 2003.
Now in the most high-profile role of his career, Ayers is already getting praise for his abilities and approach. “I think it’s a great asset to the president and the vice president to have someone who can figure out what the big objectives are, but more importantly, figure out what they can control and achieve, so that those objectives become reality,” Paul Bennecke, RGA executive director, said in an interview. With White House experience under his belt, Ayers will likely see his career flourish even more once he leaves—a fact that a fellow Buckhead resident, Tom Johnson, knows well.
Ayers’ story has some interesting parallels with another Buckhead resident, Tom Johnson, who landed in the white house as an assistant to president Lyndon Johnson at the age of 25. This experience changed the trajectory of Tom’s life and led to later positions as the president of both the LA Times and CNN. Johnson knows from firsthand experience what Ayers might be going through. He served as a White House Fellow from 1965-1967, before becoming Deputy Press Secretary, and later, Special Assistant, to President Lyndon B. Johnson. “The White House Fellowship and my years in The White House opened opportunities that were almost beyond description,” Johnson says. “I saw the importance of public service working in a bipartisan administration that passed Medicare, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, a War on Poverty, Headstart, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (NPR and PBS), Job Corps, naming the first African-American to the Supreme Court (Thurgood Marshall), striving unsuccessfully to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam, and so much more.”
Ayers himself has also seen the importance of public service—he reportedly flirted with a run for Georgia Governor in 2014. Now Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Ayers may go even further should he decide to run for office in the future. But for now, he plans to return to Buckhead after his White House tenure, where he and his wife are working on a home renovation in the neighborhood.