The post-election shuffle

Oh boy, my first ever trip to the Fifth Floor!

Yes, I went to Governor Shumlin’s weekly news conference today, because I’d heard that some personnel changes were in the offing. Also, I had the time.

And indeed, several changes were announced. No huge surprises,  no dramatic turnover. None of Shumlin’s “team of rivals” is leaving. Here are the highlights:

The highest profile departure is not a surprise: Steve Kimbell is leaving as commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation (formerly BISHCA). Shumlin noted that he had to talk Kimbell out of retirement to take the DFR job in the first place, and Kimbell was expected to leave. Deputy Insurance Commissioner Susan Donegan will take Kimbell’s place. Shumlin praised Kimbell’s work in streamlining financial regulation — or, as the Governor put it, “Let’s regulate those who need it and get off the backs of those who do not.”

Chief of Staff Bill Lofy is taking a job with the Democratic Governors Association, where he is almost certain to “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Shumlin isn’t officially the chair of the DGA just yet, although some of his statements about a DGA candidacy were phrased in the straight future tense rather than the conditional. (Today’s press release says that Shumlin is “expected to chair” the DGA.) Replacing Lofy is Liz Miller, who shifts over from her current post as Public Service Commissioner. And her replacement at Public Service will be Chris Recchia, who’s now Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources.

Shumlin’s first choice as his new Chief of Staff would have been Alex MacLean, but she’s leaving the administration sometime after the first of the year to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

After the jump: More on MacLean; plus Patrick Flood, movin’ on.

This is the change that Shumlin dreads the most; MacLean’s been by his side since he was Senate President Pro Tem, and she managed his 2010 campaign for Governor. There were traces of emotion in the Governor’s voice as he recounted her service. She doesn’t have a new job just yet; Shumlin said she had a number of opportunities to consider. (Is GMP hiring?)

The most interesting departure might be Mental Health Commissioner Patrick Flood, who’s been spearheading Shumlin’s post-Irene effort to reinvent the state’s mental health care system. It’s been a rocky process, with plans changing more than once, severe shortages of inpatient beds, practitioners strained to their limits, and of course the ongoing delays in funding decisions from FEMA.

Flood is being shifted to another position in state government. Exactly what position hasn’t been decided yet, which sounds like they’re getting him out of the way. Shumlin insisted that the move does not signal any changes in the mental health care overhaul;  rather, he said, the plan is in place and now it’s a matter of implementation.

A national search will be conducted for a new commissioner, but Flood’s departure will happen quickly; Shumlin has tapped Mary Moulton as acting commissioner. She’ll be on loan from Washington County Mental Health, where she’s Director of Intensive Care Services. She will return to that position when a permanent commissioner is hired.

Finally, Dixie Henry is moving from the Department of Health to the Agency of Human Services, where she will be Deputy Secretary. Her now boss, Doug Racine, was not on hand; Shumlin noted that he was “out of state.” Possibly in the Witness Protection Program.

Coming up in a separate diary: The Governor on Energizer, IBM, the DGA, and the fiscal cliff.  

3 thoughts on “The post-election shuffle

  1. I never have figured out just what grudge you have against Flood.  It seems to me that he did a decent job dealing with the sudden departure of the state’s mental hospital, and he’s not only happy to step down but openly pleased with this staffing change.  I don’t know where you got the idea this is “getting him out of the way”, just how was Flood ‘in the way’?

    Flood said, “We’re starting to come up with issues that really require more of a clinical leadership than I can provide.  I really think that’s the direction the department goes in. Having Mary Moulton step in is exactly what we should be doing.”

    And he said that with no trace of regret or obstructionism and with a real smile on his face.

    So, where’s the beef?

  2. …I’ve got nothing against Flood personally. But given the timing and handling of his departure, it seemed likely that (a) they wanted him out of the way, or (b) he really really wanted to be out of a tough situation.

    He did allow himself to become the front man for a policy that was wrongheaded to begin with, and has been mishandled in many respects. That’s not so much his fault as it is the administration’s pigheadedness. But he was the guy who made happy faces in public while there were loads of problems behind the scenes. He was the guy who tried to prop up the Shumlin plan while ignoring the clinicians who were in a daily struggle to prevent disaster. And now he’s decided that we need someone with a clinical background. Ya think?

    No grudge against Flood. From what I hear, he’s a decent guy who will probably do well in his next assignment. But it’s hard to say the mental health overhaul has been a success, and he’s been the person in charge. Irene left us in a mess, but the recovery has been slower and more painful than it should have been.  

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