Michigan Gov.-elect Whitmer hires key staffers

The Detroit News
Rachael Eubanks is becoming state treasurer under incoming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Lansing — Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer on Friday announced key staffers of her incoming administration, including a Gov. Rick Snyder appointee as state treasurer.

The East Lansing Democrat hired utility regulatory commissioner Rachael Eubanks as state treasurer and former state Rep. Chris Kolb as budget director.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Eubanks as an independent member of the Michigan Public Service Commission, where she has served two years regulating the state's utilities.

Before that, she worked in public finance for 13 years, most recently as a director at Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. Eubanks is credited with completing more than $22 billion in bond financings, primarily for the state of Michigan.

The financing experience is important because Gretchen Whitmer has pledged to borrow money through public bonds to finance her "Fix the damn roads" pledge if the Republican-controlled Legislature doesn't come up with its own alternative.

“Rachael Eubanks has a clear commitment to public service and brings years of critical experience to this role,” Whitmer said in a statement. “She is also a fighter for the people of Michigan, leading an $185 million project in Detroit to install street lights throughout the city, improving quality of life for residents and reducing crime.”

Kolb is a former lawmaker from Ann Arbor, who spent two terms on the House Appropriations Committee and has led the Michigan Environmental Council for many years. He also was co-chair of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, which mostly blamed the lead-contaminated water crisis on state-appointed emergency managers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality water regulators.

Chris Kolb will become budget director for incoming Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“Chris has done critical work to protect Michigan’s environment and drinking water, a cause that will continue to be at the forefront for the duration of my administration. As budget director, I know Chris will continue to put the people of our state first, while serving as a sensible steward of taxpayer dollars.”

Whitmer's chief of staff will be JoAnne Huls, who is now chief of staff at Sterling Group investment and real estate firm. 

Mark Burton, Whitmer's former chief of staff in the state Senate, will become her chief strategist.

Former federal prosecutor Mark Totten, who unsuccessfully challenged Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette in 2014, was appointed as Whitmer's chief legal counsel. He is currently as associate professor at the Michigan State University College of Law.

The cabinet secretary will be Jay Rising, the former state treasurer under Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the retired executive vice president/chief financial officer of Detroit Medical Center. Rising helped Whitmer form her road funding plan.

Zack Pohl, who ran Whitmer's communication operations during the gubernatorial campaign, becomes her communications director. He formerly led the communications operation at the Michigan AFL-CIO.

“From day one, I’ve made it clear I intend to surround myself with individuals who are reflective of our state and encompass the broad range of skills needed to chart the path forward,” Whitmer said. “The team we have assembled to lead the Executive Office is a direct reflection of that commitment, and I am thrilled to hit the ground running with them on Jan. 1.”

Other appointees include:

  • Corina Peña Andorfer, attorney and former chief compliance officer at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, as chief compliance officer.
  • Jen Flood, a government policy adviser at Dykema law firm, as public affairs director.
  • Melanie Brown, director of public affairs and community engagement at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, as community affairs director.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II's chief of staff will be Shaquila Myers, who was the legislative director for Senate Minority Leader Ananich, D-Flint.

In other news, Democratic Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson has hired Hilarie Chambers as chief of staff starting Jan. 2.

Chambers worked for more than 20 years as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak. She also has been executive director of Reading Works, which does community-based adult education in Metro Detroit, and a member of the Detroit Workforce Development Board.