Who's running Missouri now? A brief look at Greitens' Cabinet picks to date | St. Louis Public Radio

Who's running Missouri now? A brief look at Greitens' Cabinet picks to date

Feb 22, 2017

Updated March 30 with labor secretary appointment —

Gov. Eric Greitens is tapping the Illinois Department of Labor director to head Missouri's labor agency.  The Republican announced Thursday that he's chosen Anna Hui to oversee labor issues and workers' rights. She had been as assistant labor director in Illinois until Gov. Bruce Rauner asked her in February to lead the agency.   If confirmed by the Senate, Greitens says Hui would be Missouri's first Asian-American cabinet member.  Hui was an associate deputy secretary to former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao from 2002-2009. She then served as Chao's chief of staff and worked as senior adviser and policy analyst at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. Tammy Cavender is acting director.  The Associated Press contributed.     

Original story from Feb. 22, 2017:

With new administrations come new agency directors, and it’s up to the governor to choose those people. Nearly half of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ Cabinet positions have been approved by the Missouri Senate, while three still must be vetted.

Plus, appointees of former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, still run three state agencies, meaning Greitens still has some work to do. Here’s a who’s who behind the major state agencies:

SARAH STEELMAN, commissioner
Office of Administration

Age and hometown  58; Rolla, Missouri
Appointed  Jan. 6, 2017 | Has been confirmed by Senate
Formerly  State Senator, 1999-2005; Treasurer, 2005-2009

Steelman was a key Greitens supporter during his campaign, and along with her husband, David Steelman, was part of the transition team leading up to the inauguration.

“During my time as a state senator and then Missouri state treasurer, it was a priority of mine to identify ways to help government be more responsive and accountable to taxpayers,” Steelman said in a written response to St. Louis Public Radio’s interview request; she declined a full interview. “I still feel very strongly about finding the most effective use for taxpayer dollars, and I will carry those priorities with me in my role as commissioner.”

Steelman said she and her staff are “uniquely positioned to give input and guidance” to other executive branches.

CHRIS CHINN, director
Department of Agriculture

Age and hometown  41; Clarence, Missouri
Appointed  Dec. 27, 2017 | Has been confirmed by Senate
Formerly  National spokeswoman for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance; member of the Missouri Farm Bureau Board of Directors since 2010

Chinn is from rural northeastern Missouri, where she and her husband raise “hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans, and hay,” according to a December news release. She has regularly traveled around the U.S. speaking “in defense” of family-owned farms.

“I want to focus on bringing that next generation back home to the family farm or ranch,” she said. “(To accomplish that), there are some basic needs, like rural broadband. That’s something that we need today in agriculture; we’re using more and more technology every day.”

Chinn also said she wants to bridge Missouri’s urban-rural divide.

“I want to be in the urban areas more; I want to help them understand what things are in agriculture, what certain terms mean, how we produce food, (and) the activities that go on on a farm and ranch,” she said. “If they have urban gardens, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to bring farmers and ranchers in to help share their stories and offer their expertise on how to help people in the urban areas start their urban gardens.”

Department of Corrections

Age and hometown  51; High Point, North Carolina
Appointed  Dec. 21, 2016 | Has been confirmed by Senate
Formerly  Director of North Carolina’s Division of Community Correction, March 2013-December 2016 (oversaw the state’s prison system); administrator with North Carolina Department of Corrections, 2006-2012; former probation and parole officer

Precythe is a native of North Carolina and was the first of Greitens’ Cabinet picks. She recently appeared before a Missouri House committee that’s investigating claims of harassment and retaliation against corrections employees by supervisors and co-workers, and pledged to overhaul the agency.

“I’m in the process of looking at the entire culture of Corrections, within our institutions, within the community, how we do business, how we communicate with staff,” Precythe said. “I’m talking with staff, talking with management; I’m gathering all the information that I can so we can make the best decisions as we move forward.”

CAROL COMER, director
Department of Natural Resources

Age and hometown  50; Shelby County, Indiana
Appointed  Jan. 18, 2017 | Has been confirmed by Senate
Formerly  Commissioner, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, August 2015-January 2017; attorney specializing in environmental law

Comer worked under ex-Indiana governor and current Vice President Mike Pence. Both Politico and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report that Comer was a potential candidate to take over the federal Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump. That agency is now being led by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

“In Indiana … we partnered our Department of Economic Development with our Department of Environmental Management to create jobs and attract businesses and investment,” Comer said in a Facebook Live video with Greitens when her appointment was announced. “I’m looking forward to doing the same thing here in Missouri so that we can protect the air and the land and the water quality, but still encourage economic growth so that everybody prospers.”

Department of Public Safety

Age and hometown  59; Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Appointed  Jan. 2, 2017 | Has been confirmed by Senate
Formerly  Public Safety Director for Sikeston

Juden oversaw both the police and fire departments in the southeastern Missouri city of Sikeston, and previously was division commander of the city’s police and fire departments. Juden has also served as a member of Missouri’s Homeland Security Council.

Three appointees have not yet been confirmed by the Senate:

Department of Health and Senior Services

Age and hometown  59; Burlington, North Carolina
Appointed  Feb. 9, 2017 | Awaiting Senate confirmation
Formerly  North Carolina State Health Director and Deputy Secretary for Health Services, North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services

Williams was also surrounded by controversy in North Carolina over public testimony that he downplayed reports of coal ash contamination that polluted drinking water in wells located near power plants. He also ran for mayor of Raleigh in 2011, finishing a distant third. He is a licensed OB/GYN and practiced medicine in the Raleigh-Durham metro area.

Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration

Age and hometown  60; Fayetteville, Georgia
Appointed  Feb. 14,2017 | Awaiting Senate confirmation
Formerly Deputy Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance; Chief Compliance Officer of Examinations, Kentucky Department of Insurance; Director of Consumer Protection and Anti-fraud Division, National Association of Insurance Commissioners in Kansas City office

Lindley-Myers will be Greitens’ first African-American Cabinet member if confirmed. Greitens had named John Rehagen as acting DIFP director, but it appears he was a placeholder leading up to Lindley-Myer’s nomination. Rehagen had been director since early 2014 under Nixon.

JOEL WALTERS, director
Department of Revenue

Age and hometown  58; Bloomington, Minnesota
Appointed  Feb. 14, 2017, awaiting Senate confirmation
Formerly  Senior executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers

There’s not much information about Walters. The news release announcing Walters’ appointment said he worked on U.S. tax practices and foreign business investment for PricewaterhouseCoopers’ New York office. Walters said in that release that he's looking forward to making sure Missouri has a tax system that will encourage businesses to move here.

Four Cabinet positions are currently held by acting directors whom Greitens is expected to replace:

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations  Tammy Cavender was appointed acting director after the departure of Ryan McKenna, who served as Nixon’s Labor director. She had been the agency’s communications director under Republican Gov. Matt Blunt and worked for the agency through Nixon’s two terms as governor.

Three of the Cabinet members are holdovers from the Nixon administration:

  • Department of Economic Development  Acting director Mike Downing has served as DED director since 2014.
  • Department of Mental Health  Mark Stringer was appointed in July 2015.
  • Department of Social Services  Jennifer Tidball was named acting director in May 2013, following the resignation of former director Ian McCaslin, who served under Nixon and Blunt.

There are also four state agencies that are not part of the governor's Cabinet:

Missouri Department of Conservation, overseen by the Missouri Conservation Commission. All four commissioners are appointed by the governor, though no more than two can be from the same political party. The term of board member James Blair IV, a Republican, expires July 1.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, overseen by the State Board of Education. All eight board members are appointed by the governor, though no more than four can be from the same political party. Greitens could make an immediate impact on the State education board, as three board members are serving beyond their terms — Republicans Peter Herschend and Maynard Wallace and Democrat John Martin. The term of a fourth board member, Democrat Russell Still, expires this year.

Missouri Department of Higher Education, overseen by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education. All nine board members are appointed by the governor, although no more than five can be from the same political party. The board has three vacancies, and three members serving beyond their terms — Republicans Dalton Wright and Mike Thomson, and Democrat Brian Fogle.

Missouri Department of Transportation, overseen by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. All six commissioners are appointed by the governor, though no more than three can be from the same political party. There is a vacant seat that Greitens is expected to fill this year.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport