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Obama Names Chicago Survey Center Chief as Census Director

John Thompson served at the bureau more than two decades.

President Obama has named John H. Thompson, the president and CEO of the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, to be the next Census director.

Thompson would bring four decades of experience as a statistician, including two decades at the Commerce Department in various positions.

Census has been without a director since Robert Graves resigned last year to become provost at Georgetown University.

The selection of Thompson, which had been rumored for weeks among interest groups concerned about proposals to cut Census funding, was welcomed as a “wise choice” by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“Most people know that the Census Bureau is the government agency charged with counting our nation’s population every 10 years,” Carper said in a statement. “What is less known, but still critically important, is that the Census Bureau regularly provides the government, business, and academia with an updated picture of who we are as individuals, communities, and a nation.”

Carper said Thompson’s “several years working in management positions at the bureau and his previous tenure there means he is familiar with the agency’s unique culture and mission and he understands the important link between a well-run agency and a successful enumeration.”

Phil Sparks, co-director of the Census Project, a coalition of 600 associations, think tanks, academics, local officials and civil rights groups, said Thompson will make “an excellent director of the Census Bureau.” He has “solid previous experience in senior management of the bureau and is currently head of what most people consider the most prestigious survey research center in America,” Sparks told Government Executive. He added that he hoped there would be no resistance in the Senate because “the bureau has been waiting for a director since August 2012.”

While at Commerce, Thompson was chief of the Decennial Management Division, worked in the Statistical Support Division from 1987 to 1995 and the Statistical Methods Division from 1975 to 1987. He has been a member of the American Statistical Association since 1975, according to a White House bio, and is currently a member of the Committee on National Statistics with the National Academy of Sciences. Thompson received a B.S. and M.S. from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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