Clarke, a tough-talking, conservative firebrand recognized by his penchant for cowboy hats, announced the appointment Wednesday during an interview with a Wisconsin radio station.
“I’m both honored and humbled to be a appointed to this position by [DHS Sec. John Kelly], working for the Trump administration in this position,” Clarke told WISN Milwaukee.
Clarke said he will begin in the position in June. The position does not require Senate confirmation.
A DH spokesman said after Clarke spoke: “The position mentioned is a secretarial appointment. Such senior positions are announced by the department when made official by the secretary. No such announcement with regard to the Office of Public Engagement has been made.”
Clarke, a Trump loyalist who served as a surrogate during the campaign, was one of three black speakers who endorsed President Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention. He is a vocal proponent of gun rights with close ties to the National Rifle Association.
His name has been floated as a possible replacement to former FBI Director James Comey, but the announcement Wednesday scraps those rumors.
Clarke’s brazenness and tendency to fire-off provocative, off-hand comments have contributed to his rise as one of Wisconsin’s most controversial political figures. The law-and-order sheriff has frequently told Black Lives Matters protesters to “stop trying to fix the police, fix the ghetto” and referred to Ferguson demonstrators as “vultures on a roadside carcass.”
Clarke is also facing scrutiny for the death of a mentally ill inmate who died of dehydration at the Milwaukee County Jail after being refused water for seven days. No criminal charges have been filed, but the case is under review by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.
The 38-year-old man was one of four people, including the newborn of an inmate, who died last year at the jail overseen by Clarke.
The sheriff will replace the current acting Assistant Secretary John Barsa.