Josh Earnest, who grew up in Kansas City, was named Friday as the chief White House spokesman.
He replaces Jay Carney, under whom he served as chief deputy.
President Barack Obama made the announcement personally on Friday, drawing an audible gasp from journalists in the White House briefing room.
“You can’t find a nicer individual even outside Washington” than Earnest, Obama said.
The news of Carney’s resignation brought praise for the outgoing aid from the president.
“Jay has become one of my closest friends,” he said.
Earnest grew up in the Red Bridge neighborhood with two younger brothers. His mother, Jeanne, is a psychologist, and his father, Don, is the athletic director at Pembroke Hill School.
Josh Earnest attended the Barstow School, a private secondary school, on a scholarship, where he played baseball and basketball.
Earnest graduated from Rice University in 1997 with a degree in political science. He worked in a Houston mayoral campaign, on former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s first campaign, as a congressional aide, as spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, on a governor’s race in Florida and later on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
He’s “indispensable,” Carney said in a Star story in 2012. “I depend on his judgment all the time. His time in politics has made him smart, but not cynical. Maybe that’s because of his KC roots.”
As Carney’s main deputy, Earnest occasionally subbed for the chief spokesman at the daily briefing for the White House press corps.
In the 2012 story, Earnest said “part of the job is ensuring that the president’s point of view is being communicated. Sometimes it’s important for that message to be delivered forcefully, but professionally.”