WASHINGTON, April 24 (UPI) -- Karen Hughes said she was not surprised that news of her departure as one of the most powerful women in Washington and President George W. Bush's key aides quickly turned into a national discussion about women, family and the workplace.
"Throughout my career, I have always advocated for a family-friendly workplace," Hughes told United Press International on Wednesday.
Hughes abruptly resigned her high-powered position on Tuesday, saying she and her family wanted to return to Texas. The move caught many Bush administration insiders by surprise and raised political eyebrows across Washington.
But as much as her return to her home state was framed as an exit from Bush's inner circle, Hughes has vowed to continue her role as the president's closest advisor -- but from a longer distance.
"I will be in Washington every couple of weeks," Hughes said. "You'll be seeing me around."
The media frenzy that erupted after Hughes' surprise announcement centered less around whether she would remain a part of Bush's pod along with senior advisors Andrew Card and Karl Rove and focused more on if it was a decision she would have made had she not been a woman.
"I don't agree with that. This move shows that both women and men can have family and continue their career," Hughes said.
And, if anything, Hughes said her move would serve as an inspiration to women in less senior positions so they realize that they have options when making decisions about work and family.
Hughes always has been vocal about her devotion to family life, never being shy about saying she was leaving work behind to take in her 15-year-old son Robert's baseball games. She is known to be devoted to her son and during the president's campaign took him out of school and tutored him so as to keep him at her side. She said she was fortunate to have a boss who was supportive of her decision.
A key Republican insider who asked not to be quoted by name said that in addition to Hughes's son, Robert, having had difficulty finding friends at Washington's exclusive St. Albans School, her husband, Jerry, a lawyer who specializes in trusts and estate work, cannot operate his practice from Washington.
"It's simply too state-specific a law practice," he said, and Jerry longed to get back to his Texas practice.
But in the early days with the GOP, Hughes learned to balance family and her life in politics. Hughes recalled working for the Republican Party of Texas in 1990 and planning the state convention from a cell phone her driveway while her then-toddler son played in the garden.
She said she was heartened when a former Clinton administration official sent her a message Tuesday that she was doing the right thing. He had, she said, left the White House after his son told him his baseball games were less fun without his father.
Hughes was known to reporters as firm and plainspoken and to the White House staff as demanding -- and always protective of the president. She was the architect of a White House public-relations operation that had few leaks and little of the confusion of statements that have marked other administrations. Hughes also was instrumental in choosing other key administration media representatives, including Victoria Clark at the Defense Department.
Hughes said she was uncertain exactly when she and her family would return to Texas but that it could be sometime in July. She hoped that before she left she would get to take in the Washington she has been unable to see during the past year.
"It's a beautiful city. I really hope to see it," Hughes said.