Walter "Skip" Brown has six months to prepare Iraq for self-governance.
The assistant superintendent of student services in the Paradise Valley Unified School District is taking unpaid leave to accept a position as director of a training center for Iraqi leaders.
The position will allow Brown to play a major role in Iraq’s transformation into a democratic nation. He could arrive in Baghdad as early as April 15 and will remain when the United States gives up governmental control in June.
He will return to Arizona after establishing a training system for high-ranking officials of the new government on how school boards, city councils and other arms of democracy operate.
"They really haven’t had a representative government in that part of the world — ever," Brown said. "The important thing is to have people understand they do have a voice and can make a difference in the government."
Brown was chosen from international candidates who applied for the position. His friend Leslie "Cap" Dean, the U.S. Embassy regional director known as the "U.S. mayor of Baghdad," recommended the Vietnam veteran for the job. Camp is in charge of reconstructing Baghdad.
Brown’s wife of 36 years, Gena, is supportive of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he said.
"It will be a great cultural awakening for me," Brown said. "I’ll be living in either a bombed-out shelter or a tent."
"To a student of public administration, I have got to tell you that it’s going to be fascinating to watch the transition of government," he said.
"There’s a certain amount of risk — I don’t know if a civil war or something will ensue after the U.S. gives up the reins," he said.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, a former longtime Paradise Valley district board member, said Iraq is lucky to get Brown.
"It’s a great idea to bring Paradise Valley excellence to Iraq," Horne said. "It’s the academics that are a sound basis for citizenship: Reading, writing, math, science and history."