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TechNet, the political networking group of technology CEOs, has raised its visibility in Washington by naming White House official Lezlee Westine as its new president and CEO.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based organization also announced plans to open its first Washington office when Westine, who currently serves as the White House director of public liaison and deputy assistant to President Bush, takes over at TechNet.
At the White House, Westine, who reports directly to Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, organizes coalition building and constituent outreach efforts on a broad range of issues in addition to organizing approximately 400 events a year.
Westine told internetnews.com that her White House background gives her a "unique perspective" for her new role at TechNet, where she worked for four years prior to joining the Bush administration in 2001.
Westine, 44, said when she joined TechNet, co-founders John Chambers and John Doerr "wanted to make sure bad things didn't happen to their industry" in Washington.
"I was there at the very, very beginning," Westine said. "Most [CEOs] were focused on building their businesses. They've realized now how important it is to engage with policymakers."
Heading Westine's and TechNet's priorities is education reform in order to train workers for 21st century technology jobs.
TechNet is calling on Congress to increase spending on math and science education and to fund more and better tech-oriented retraining programs for displaced workers.
"It has become increasingly clear that our innovation and competition policies drive our nation's economic growth," said Chambers, who is also CEO of Cisco, in a statement. "Lezlee's proven leadership at the White House in bringing people together will serve TechNet well as we work with policy-makers on our top priorities."
Doerr also issued a statement praising Westine, saying she has the "energy, smarts and skills to help the innovation industry effectively partner with our nation's leaders and assure that the United States retains and extends its competitive leadership in the global economy."
TechNet is also focusing on increasing research and development funding, accelerating broadband penetration rates, more free trade, cyber security and preserving employee stock options.