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Top Walsh aide Dan Koh leaving Labor Department for White House position

Dan Koh, center right, embraces then-Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh at the opening of Koh's campaign headquarters in Haverhill in his 2018 bid for Congress.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON — Dan Koh, a top aide to Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh and a Democrat with deep Massachusetts political ties, is taking a job helping oversee operations of President Biden’s cabinet, according to a White House official.

Koh, 37, will be the deputy cabinet secretary in the executive office of the president, serving as a liaison between the White House and cabinet members. He makes the move after coming to Washington in February 2021 to serve as Walsh’s chief of staff at the Labor Department, reprising the role he played from 2014-17 when Walsh was Boston mayor.

Koh replaces Cristóbal Alex, who left the White House position in May. Koh will report to Evan Ryan, the White House cabinet secretary and head of the Office of Cabinet Affairs. Among his responsibilities are ensuring Walsh and other members of Biden’s cabinet have input on White House decisions and helping them prepare for Cabinet meetings.

Koh said in a statement that he was “honored to continue serving the Biden-Harris administration” and looked forward to working with Ryan and her team “as we continue to build back better and unite our nation.”


“I will forever be grateful to Secretary Walsh and my colleagues at the Department of Labor for all I have learned from their leadership and friendship,” Koh said.

An Andover native and Harvard Business School graduate, Koh left Boston City Hall to run for Congress and narrowly lost the 2018 Democratic primary to Lori Trahan for the Third District seat that includes Lowell, Lawrence, and Fitchburg. He was elected to the Andover Board of Selectmen in 2019 and, after some consideration, opted against a 2020 rematch with Trahan.

Before joining the Labor Department, Koh was chief operating officer of HqO, a Boston-based software company. He was mentioned late last year as a possible candidate for Massachusetts lieutenant governor.


Walsh, who tapped Koh at just 28 years old to be his first chief of staff as Boston mayor, said in a statement, “I’m thrilled for Dan in his new role and look forward to seeing the great work he’ll do on the White House team.” Allison Zelman, the Labor Department’s deputy chief of staff, will replace Koh, according to a department spokesperson.

Koh attended Walsh’s swearing-in as labor secretary and accompanied him on some of the many trips Walsh has taken in the job, including one as part of the US delegation for the inauguration of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. Koh, who describes himself on Twitter as a “proud Korean-Lebanese American,” tweeted pictures from the May trip of Walsh getting coffee at Dunkin’.

Koh’s family has a history of government service. His paternal grandfather was South Korea’s acting ambassador to the United States in 1960. His father, Howard Koh, served as Massachusetts public health commissioner and then as assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration. And his uncle, Harold Koh, was a legal advisor to Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state.

Jim Puzzanghera can be reached at Follow him @JimPuzzanghera.