SOUTH BEND - An important member of Mayor Pete Buttigieg's inner circle is leaving after just 17 months on the job.
Chief of Staff Mike Schmuhl on Friday announced his departure from the mayor's office effective June 12 to pursue a graduate degree in international affairs at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, or Science Po.
Kathryn Roos, the mayor's deputy chief of staff, has been tapped to fill the position.
"It's bittersweet, no doubt about that," Schmuhl said Friday, speaking to The Tribune by phone from his office at the County-City Building. "I grew up in South Bend, I went to school in South Bend, the city has given me so much."
He said it helps knowing the city and party are in good hands.
"The idea is Joe Donnelly is now in the Senate, Pete Buttigieg is our mayor, the local party is now on stronger footing with (state Sen.) John Broden in a leadership position, so now it's time for me to pursue a dream," he said.
Schmuhl has been the mayor's chief of staff since day one. Prior to that, he served as then-candidate Buttigieg's campaign manager. He also managed Donnelly's successful congressional campaign in 2010.
He and the mayor both attended St. Joseph's High School, and the two were friends despite a one-year age difference. In fact, it was Buttigieg who showed Schmuhl around the school when Schmuhl was a freshman.
Schmuhl said he is not sure what the future holds, but he did not rule out a return to South Bend.
"South Bend is my hometown, and South Bend and it's people really define who I am as a person," he said.
"And when I was growing up in high school, and even in college, I never imagined I would spend a good part of my career back in my hometown. But I'm glad I did, and I feel like I've made an impact ... and if I can ever be of service to my hometown or my home state, I would certainly consider that."
In a statement Friday, Buttigieg praised Schmuhl's leadership and wished him well in the future.
"Mike Schmuhl is a committed public servant, a formidable political talent and a great friend," the mayor said. "His integrity, decency and intellect made him an extraordinary leader in both the campaign and the administration.
South Bend will miss him as he pursues this compelling educational opportunity, but we know he will remain in close touch and that he can take well-earned pride in his tremendous contributions to our city."
Of Roos, who served as finance director and director of operations for his campaign, the mayor said, "(She) will be a terrific leader for the mayor's office team. From day one of the administration, she has proven her commitment and talent for public service, and I am delighted that she has accepted the new responsibilities of serving our citizens as chief of staff."
Said Roos, "It is an honor to serve as chief of staff and I look forward to ensuring South Bend is a thriving city for all. Having grown up here, I am committed to making South Bend a great place to live, work and play. It is an exciting time to work for the people of South Bend."
Though Schmuhl's last day is June 12, he will not leave for Paris until August.
His degree program is a two-year program.
Staff writer Erin Blasko: