Greitens reaches out as he prepares to take the helm of Missouri state government
Missouri Gov.-elect Eric Greitens plans to have two transition teams in place shortly: one to organize his January inaugural and the other to tackle his GOP takeover of the state’s executive branch.
To that end, Greitens is seeking guidance and advice from the outgoing governor, Democrat Jay Nixon.
Senior adviser Austin Chambers praised the reception that Greitens received Thursday during his first meeting with Nixon and top members of his administration.
Nixon “was extremely gracious and willing to help with anything and everything,’’ Chambers said during a conference call Friday with reporters. “His staff has been absolutely wonderful to work with. They are committed to making sure that there is a peaceful and successful transition of power.”
Greitens – who has never held public office — “intends to lean on Gov. Nixon for as much guidance and wisdom as possible over these next two months,” Chambers said.
The aide added that Greitens “is committed to serving all the people of Missouri and not just those who voted for him.”
Focus turns to swearing-in, and hiring staff
Greitens defeated his Democratic rival, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, by about 160,000 votes and carried 111 counties – generally rural Missouri.
Although Koster – favored in early polls — had the endorsements of traditional pro-rural groups such as the NRA and Farm Bureau, he carried only the traditional Democratic-leaning territory in Missouri, including the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, and St. Louis County.
Greitens’ victory is part of the GOP sweep of Missouri state government, which was led Tuesday by now-president-elect Donald Trump, who carried the state by almost 20 percentage points.
Greitens’ team is already working on planning his inaugural on Jan. 9, and in compiling resumes for the dozens of key governmental jobs he will need to fill swiftly.
Chambers said the team will set up two websites: one to lay out the inaugural calendar and the other to handle inquiries from job seekers.
The Greitens team is focusing now on key staff positions, Chambers said. That includes Greitens' plan to hire a chief operations officer to handle day-to-day operations.
As soon as he takes over, one of Greitens’ most pressing tasks will be crafting a proposed state budget to be formally presented to the General Assembly soon after.
Greitens will put his own stamp on the budget, Chambers said, but necessity will require that he also rely on Nixon’s budget team, which already has been working on it.
Negotiators with the General Assembly and the governor’s office usually reach an agreement in December on their estimate of what the state’s income will be for the coming fiscal year.
Plans to fulfill anti-corruption pledge
Greitens also met Thursday with Republican Senate leaders, some of whom had been put off by his campaign talk about “cleaning up the corruption in Jefferson City.”
Chambers said Greitens remains committed to that task, but he also wants a successful working relationship with state lawmakers in both parties.
“We’ve got to get advice and counsel and guidance from the folks who have been there,” Chambers said.
“The campaign is over and this about serving the people,’’ Chambers said. “What we are going to do is make sure that the agendas and promises that we laid out during the campaign are fulfilled. Because those weren’t just campaign rhetoric. They were things we have to do. We have to clean up Jefferson City and give the people back their government.”
Republican legislative leaders do share his desire to swiftly act on legislation to make Missouri a "right to work" state. Such legislation would curb union rights by barring employers and unions from requiring workers in a bargaining unit to pay dues.
Chambers said the legislative meeting also focused on other priorities, but he said it was too early to discuss them.
Will move into Governor's Mansion
Greitens and his wife, Sheena Greitens, also had dinner Thursday with Nixon and his wife, Georganne Nixon, in the Governor's Mansion. The Nixons gave the incoming occupants a tour of the mansion.
Chambers said the Greitens family will move into the mansion, but the timetable has yet to be set. The couple have two young sons.
It’s been more than a decade since a family with young children moved into the mansion. Then-Gov. Matt Blunt, R-Mo., and his wife, Melanie, also had young children. But she and the children spent a lot of time at their existing home in Springfield, Missouri.
Even with the move, Sheena Greitens plans to retain her post as an assistant professor in political science at the University of Missouri at Columbia, Chambers said. He added that her husband/governor-elect is proud of her career.