In mid-November Governor Bill Walker announced he was shaking things up in his office by replacing Jim Whitaker with Scott Kendall as Chief of Staff. I told you at the time there was a lot of buzz among political insiders that the move was just the beginning of a larger makeover of the Governor’s office.
That’s now coming to fruition with several more of Walker’s key staff either already departed or set to depart in the coming weeks.
Deputy Chief of Staff Marcia Davis is retiring from state service at the end of February, Policy Analyst Ty Keltner is departing in the next few weeks, and Tribal Affairs Advisor Paulette Schuerch left in late December, sources familiar with the situation have confirmed to The Midnight Sun.
According to those sources, the Governor will not be filling the positions of Davis or Schuerch, choosing instead to downsize his office.
Some media attention has been paid to the Governor’s recent hiring of political consultant John-Henry Heckendorn as a special assistant to new Chief of Staff Scott Kendall, but it has gone largely unreported that Heckendorn’s position actually comes from combining the positions of Dean Williams, who left last year to become Corrections Commissioner and the departing Keltner’s position. Those two staffers made approximately $200,000 in combined salaries, whereas Heckendorn will make $97,500.
Our sources also tell us the turnover in the Governor’s Office is not yet complete. Even more departures, downsizing, and realignment are expected by Walker in the next few weeks.
On their face, these moves should create substantial savings in the Governor’s Office budget — Marcia Davis alone earns a $169,000 salary. It will be interesting to see if Walker proposes a cost saving budget revision for his office to state legislators before the mid-February deadline to do so.