Obama picks former UMS chancellor Joseph Westphal to be next ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Joseph Westphal in 2006.
Joseph Westphal in 2006.
Posted Nov. 08, 2013, at 3:39 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Former University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal was nominated Wednesday by President Barack Obama to be the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Westphal was among five nominees announced Wednesday in a White House statement.

“I am grateful these accomplished individuals have agreed to join this Administration, and I’m confident they will serve ably in these important roles,” Obama said in the statement. “I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”

Since 2009, Westphal has served as undersecretary of the Army, the second highest-ranking civilian position in that branch of the military. He served as acting secretary of the Army from March through May 2011.

His tenure as chancellor of the UMS ran from 2002 to 2006. He resigned in April 2006, but remained the highest-paid state employee in 2007 with a salary of $208,000 per year for his position as a University of Maine professor, a job he took after resigning as chancellor.

After leaving Maine and before becoming undersecretary of the Army, Westphal served in a number of positions at The New School University in New York City.

Before coming to Maine, Westphal served in a number of high-level government positions, including acting secretary of the Army, assistant secretary of the Army in charge of the Army Corps of Engineers, and senior policy adviser on water issues at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He was also the head of the political science department at Oklahoma State University, executive director of the Congressional Sunbelt Caucus and served two years as special assistant to a Mississippi senator.

The Senate must confirm his nomination.

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