Vince Gray cuts a ribbon in July 2013, while Pedro Ribeiro, far right, holds it.
Vince Gray cuts a ribbon in July 2013, while Pedro Ribeiro, far right, holds it.

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Vince Gray‘s biggest fan is headed to the exit. Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, who has colorfully made the mayor’s enemies his own since joining the administration in 2011, is leaving to take a job in the Department of Homeland Security.

The news, first tweeted by WUSA9’s Bruce Johnson, comes after multiple Gray cabinet officials have ditched the lame-duck administration. Gray chief of staff Chris Murphy announced the change in an email to administration officials, adding that Ribeiro will be replaced by Doxie McCoy.

Ribeiro joined Gray’s struggling freshman administration in Nov. 2011 after former spokeswoman Linda Wharton Boyd got the boot after the administration earned bad press over nepotism and the hiring of Gray campaign pal Sulaimon Brown.

“Like him or not, Pedro helped save the Gray administration,” says one senior Gray administration official, who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

In his email about Ribeiro, Murphy wrote that he “managed to disagree with the press when he had to without being disagreeable.”

Like fellow outspoken Gray defender Chuck Thies, who managed Gray’s unsuccessful re-election effort, Ribeiro’s job seemed premised on the belief that offense is the best defense.

When Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells claimed he had been “duped” into supporting a city settlement with Gray shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson, Ribeiro cracked that Wells was not so much a dupe as he was a dope. Ribeiro tangled with Kwame Brown and David Catania on the D.C. Council, and blew up at LL colleague Aaron Wiener during a press conference.

Ribeiro’s occasional punchiness didn’t stop some of those same reporters from wishing Ribeiro well today.

Ribeiro’s mouth could be a hassle for the administration, too. When Ribeiro told the Washington Business Journal that the District’s film office may have “dropped the ball” for a shoot for Netflix’s House of Cards, staff at the agency fumed privately that Ribeiro was hanging them out to dry. After Ribeiro said the District’s taxi system was nearly “third-world,” cabbies demanded an apology from the administration.

Update, 4 p.m.: Ahead of his exit next month, Ribeiro tells LL that occasional belligerence comes with the territory of being a mayoral spokesman in a large city.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job to some extent if I wasn’t combatative,” Ribeiro says.

But, Ribeiro insists, he’s not all tough. Ribeiro says he’s sometimes had to call reporters to apologize.

“There are instances where I have been a dick, and I know it,” Ribeiro says.

Murphy’s email:

 Dear Cabinet Members –

I am writing to share that EOM Communications Director Pedro Ribeiro will be leaving the Gray Administration effective August 8th. The Mayor and I are grateful to Pedro for his nearly three years of service to the Gray Administration and to the District. Pedro has been a trusted and valued advisor and counselor to the Mayor and his entire senior team as well as an effective spokesperson who managed to disagree with the press when he had to without being disagreeable. We are sorry to see him go.

Pedro will be joining the Obama Administration where he will be taking on a senior role at the Department of Homeland Security.

Please join me in thanking Pedro for his great work and in wishing him well.

In his absence, Doxie McCoy will be promoted to Communications Director. Doxie is a steady and trusted professional whom I am confident will ensure our Communications operation doesn’t miss a beat.

Thanks all,

Photo by Aaron Wiener