Snyder forms new company as ex-officials land new gigs

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Lansing — Former Gov. Rick Snyder has formed a new company in Ann Arbor, but several members of his administration are sticking close to Lansing with new jobs in or around state government.

Before he left office Jan. 1, Snyder filed paperwork with the state in September to reserve the name for a new limited liability company called "RPAction," a reference to the Republican governor's mantra of relentless positive action.

Snyder has not decided exactly what he’ll do at the company, spokesman Ari Adler said, but “you’ll probably see him dabbling in a number of things.” The former governor's LinkedIn page now identifies him as a "helper" at RPAction. Longtime assistant Allison Scott is working for him at the firm.

Snyder, a former technology chief executive and venture capitalist, in December told The Detroit News he was interested in working with startup firms or serving as a policy expert in various fields, including mobility, artificial intelligence and cyber-security. He also expressed interest in teaching at the collegiate level.

Former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley wasted little time landing a new job. Two days after Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was sworn in, Calley was announced as the new president of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

Calley is one of three ex-administration officials who have registered as a lobbyist or joined a lobbying firm. Director of External Affairs Tricia Kinley was hired as director of the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, and Cabinet Director Mike Zimmer is working as director of business development and strategic affairs for Kandler Reed Khoury & Muchmore.

Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri

Other former Snyder administration officials are enjoying some time off before deciding their next moves.

"Right now it's 80 degrees, and I'm about to go into the ocean," former state Treasurer Nick Khouri said in a phone interview from Florida. "Even though it's only 1 o'clock (in the afternoon), I'm about to start happy hour."

Khouri is in "semi-retirement" but plans to remain active on several boards and commissions, including the State Tax Commission that Snyder appointed him to in December. He hasn't ruled out exploring other job options but for now is happy doing "whatever the hell I want."

"I recommend it to everybody," Khouri joked.

Darin Ackerman ,who lobbied the state Senate for Snyder as director of legislative affairs, is now a senior adviser and director of intragovernmental affairs for state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

John Walsh

Former state Budget Director John Walsh, who helped negotiate the Detroit "grand bargain" that helped the city emerge from bankruptcy as Snyder's director of strategic policy, is now working as president of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, a coalition of business executives and philanthropists seeking to boost the local economy.

Former Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton left the administration last fall to become vice president of marketing and communications for Business Leaders for Michigan. Former Calley spokeswoman Laura Biehl landed a gig as director of public affairs for Resch Strategies firm in downtown Lansing.

Rich Baird

Adler, a longtime public relations professional who has taught at the collegiate level, said he is working as a freelance consultant. Snyder “transformation manager” Rich Baird is also doing consulting work, Adler said.

Snyder’s former Chief Legal Counsel Travis Weber told The News he’s joining Warner, Norcross and Judd law firm in their government affairs practice group. He’ll initially work in Southfield but will eventually help the firm’s Detroit expansion, Weber said.

Several department directors stepped down late in Snyder’s tenure to take new jobs. Longtime Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle, who now works as a vice president at Econolite, a “traffic management solutions” company based in California.

Kirk Steudle

Mark Van Port Fleet, who succeeded Steudle as MDOT director, officially retired at the end of 2018. Michigan State Police Director Kriste Kibbe Etue also retired as did Keith Creagh, former director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Former Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether is retired too — at least for now. Shelly Edgerton, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, plans to continue working and is exploring options.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who is still set to stand trial on charges related to the Flint water crisis, has not yet landed a new job. But he is having “fairly active conversations” about consulting opportunities, according to a spokesman.

Nick Lyon

Lyon ran the largest department in Michigan's government after Snyder combined with welfare department with the former Department of Community Health.

Jamie Clover Adams resigned as director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development in early 2018 to take a job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where she serves as chief of staff for farm production and conservation.