Washington, D.C. provides a wealth of talent for transitions. As congressional committee staffs change partisan control, or the White House moves from one party to another, the thousands of jobs available for appointment can be filled by those close to the newly empowered, but often the selections are credentialed by previous service. For example, President Obama's Administration has throughout the executive branch many professionals who previously served during the Clinton Administration or for Democrats in the House and Senate.

But what do you do when there is no previous administration? I've heard the stories from many early staffers to Governor Kirk Fordice. Fordice was not only the first Republican elected governor in modern times, he was an outsider in his own party after beating the establishment candidate in the primary. When the Fordice team began their transition, they wondered where and who were the Republicans in state government. The Fordice team colonized the agencies with Republicans (or Republican leaners) while converting many others already there.

By the time Haley Barbour was sworn in as governor in 2004, many agency workers had moved into the Republican column by virtue of the changing state. Barbour called on his own loyalists as well as experienced Republican assets to build his team.

Now with four years of Republican dominance in statewide elected offices and eight years of the Barbour Administration, and as the GOP takes control of the House of Representatives and again the Senate, the team of Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has a significant pool of experienced agency heads, staff and operatives to populate government positions.

Bryant announced the appointment of ten agency heads this week; six of those currently serve the same position for Barbour. Interestingly enough, two of those Barbour held over from his predecessor, Democrat Governor Ronnie Musgrove: Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps and Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Dr. Bill Walker.



Many serving Governor, Lt. Governor have roots in the Barbour team.



Bryant replaced MEMA Executive Director Mike Womack with Robert Latham who previously served in that post under Musgrove and Barbour; he promoted within the agency to move Rickey Berry up to Executive Director of the Department of Human Services. At the Department of Employment Security, Les Range is out, replaced as executive director by Mark Henry who most recently served as Bryant's chief-of-staff and served as the final chief-of-staff to Governor Fordice. Bryant also moves Dr. David Dzielak from his position as director of strategic research alliances at the University of Mississippi Medical Center over to Executive Director of Medicaid.

Kirk Sims, who served as Bryant's policy director in the lieutenant governor's office and then as his gubernatorial campaign manager, will be Bryant's new chief-of-staff. As deputy chief of staff, Bryant brings in Lucien Smith who served as counsel and a policy aide to Barbour before making an attempt to become the Republican nominee for Treasurer in 2011.

There will also be transitions in the Republican Party. The governor does not have any procedural authority to name the Mississippi Republican Party Chairman, but traditionally the MSGOP's State Executive Committee has honored a Republican governor's role as titular head of the party by voting for his choice. Bryant's choice is Watkins & Eager attorney Joe Nosef who formerly served as a chief-of-staff in Bryant's lieutenant governor's office. Prior to that service, Nosef was Barbour's 2007 campaign manager and had served on Barbour's official staff as counsel. In 2003, Nosef challenged incumbent Representative Bill Denny in the Republican Primary for his Northeast Jackson seat and lost by about 500 votes with 44 percent of the vote. Nosef's family is from Clarksdale where his late father served as mayor and also the partial inspiration to the song "Waitin' on Joe" by country music star Steve Azar, Nosef's cousin.

Lt. Governor Reeves brought with him his Deputy Treasurer Liz Welch to serve as Secretary of the Senate and Rick Hux to serve as sergeant-at-arms. His staff Kathryn Stewart, Parks McNabb and policy director Rebekah Staples all have roots in the Barbour team. On the House side, Speaker Gunn chose and the House elected Andrew Ketchings to serve as Clerk of the House. Ketchings, a former state representative from Natchez, served as Barbour's liaison to the House.

Elected officials need a competent and experienced team and Bryant, Reeves and Gunn benefit in their transitions from those who have served previously in state government. For years to come, the Barbour imprint will be seen in agencies and on staffs, but ultimately the success or failure of a team will be determined by its leadership at the top. Many bemoan the length of campaigns and elections, but once concluded, transitions move quickly in American democracy. Now that the teams are mostly in place, it is time for governing and, for Republicans, conservative public policy.





Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.