There will be new faces and new positions in the governor's office when the new administration takes over next month, Gov.-elect Mike Leavitt announced Wednesday.
Leavitt named his senior staff members. Unlike Gov. Norm Bangerter's administrators, these staffers will work for both the governor and lieutenant governor.The Office of Planning and Budget, which functioned as a separate state agency under Bangerter, will also be merged with the governor's office. Bangerter's budget director, Charlie Johnson, will serve as chief of staff.
"This is not to say what's gone on in the past is bad," Leavitt said. "This is reflective of a different executive style. I intend to be very hands-on."
Under the new office structure, the 15 state department heads who now report to Bangerter's top policy advisers will answer directly to the governor.
"Rather than have a lot of policy people that serve as liasons with the departments, Mike wants to work more closely with department heads," said LaVarr Webb, transition spokesman. "He wants to operate more like a chief executive officer."
Webb, who directed Leavitt's campaign and worked for the Deseret News for 15 years, will hold one of the newly created positions: deputy for policy.
As chief of staff, Johnson will head the office. Johnson took the budget director's job just 15 months ago after retiring from 31 years as an accountant in the private sector.
Other positions announced Wednesday are deputy for intergovernmental relations, former Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins. Jenkins will be the administration representative to other government entities, including the federal government.
Vicki Varela, assistant commissioner for higher education for public affairs for the past seven years, will become director of public affairs and policy adviser.
In addition to serving as spokeswoman for the administration, Varela will oversee and coordinate all state government communications and media relations.
A position created by a change in the Utah Constitution approved earlier this month by voters, that of legal counsel to the governor, will be filled by Robin Riggs.
Riggs has been associate general counsel to the Legislature for the past 10 years and has helped draft some of the state's most controversial legislation including sweeping changes to the liquor laws.
Leavitt still needs to fill 10 of the 15 department head positions he has already said he intends to replace.
Provo mayor resigns to join Leavitt administration as a deputy governor; see B4.