Well, the Statehouse is virtually empty now and probably will be until, say, Nov. 7, when the votes will have been counted and we’ll know who gets the nice offices and won’t have to drive with their parkas on because they will have slots in the relatively warm underground Capitol parking garage.
And whether Democrat Sen. Laura Kelly (who has reserved parking now) or Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach (who has reserved — but outside — parking near his current office) wins the governorship, nearly everyone else in the building is wondering not just about parking, but jobs.
Because the governor names his/her own cabinet members, 11 jobs are immediately on the line as the new governor prepares to start work. Those agencies? Administration, Aging and Disabilities Service, Agriculture, Children and Families, Commerce, Corrections, Health and Environment, Labor, Revenue, Transportation and Wildlife/Parks/Tourism.
They’re now Republicans, or at least acceptable to the current Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer. He did change out the Secretary of Children and Families from Gov. Sam Brownback appointee former Rep. Phyllis Gilmore to Gina Meier-Hummel, largely to deal with legislative angst toward Gilmore, but not much else changed at the Cabinet table when Colyer moved up to governor earlier this year.
But…it’s clear the key agency leaders who carry out the governor’s programs and attitudes for state services are going to change after the election. That’s part of the reward that comes with being elected governor — choosing secretaries who will carry out their campaign promises and philosophies.
And, yes, there is some anxiety among those current secretaries. Catch them in the Statehouse hallways, and they aren’t talking about whether they plan to leave or retire. They generally look at their watches, and say they have an appointment or maybe lunch reservation and don’t really have time to discuss what the gubernatorial candidates have talked about in terms of policy for their agencies.
Most are expecting Kobach to be able to keep some Cabinet secretaries, except for a couple agencies that his campaign managers have shown interest in — say, Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina — for Transportation. Kobach isn’t answering any questions about whom he’d hire.
For Kelly, well, it’s not gotten specific yet, though look for some of her supporters to start queuing up for jobs if she is elected. Kelly is similarly quiet, though she said Kansans can expect a more “diverse” Cabinet if she is elected. And that’s where she stops.
Orman? Well, he’s quiet, also, though as an independent he’ll have some friends who could wind up in his Cabinet … or maybe he’ll have interested Kansans quiz out for the jobs.
Downstream from the Cabinet secretaries is their staff, and they have dozens of jobs within agencies that are unclassified, which means that they have no actual rights to their jobs and serve at the pleasure of their bosses. Look for scores of those jobs to change as secretaries surround themselves with like-minded employees who have widely varying amounts of authority over just how agencies provide or don’t provide services to Kansans.
That vote on Nov. 6 for governor means that we’ll have a general idea of who’s going to run this state, his/her general philosophies and concerns and issues, but not a clue about who will interpret and implement those gubernatorial philosophies at street-level where most Kansans actually interact with the state.
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Every candidate talks about efficiency, about performance, about serving Kansans better or more fairly, but once you get below the actual office of governor, you’re in the “swamp.” And whom the governor wants in that swamp and out of that swamp.
See how this one comes out, won’t we?
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report