Snyder promotes senior aide to become top attorney

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder has promoted a senior aide to be his top attorney just as his administration has faces an onslaught of lawsuits over the Flint water crisis as part of a series of top-level staff changes announced Tuesday.

Snyder on Tuesday appointed Deputy Chief of Staff Beth Clement to be chief legal counsel for the governor’s executive office.

The Republican governor has been without a chief legal counsel since mid-February when he tapped his top attorney, James Redford, to lead to the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency after a stinging audit that uncovered problems at a state-run nursing home for veterans in Grand Rapids.

Valerie Brader has been on leave as executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy to serve as Snyder’s special counsel for Flint legal matters in recent months. She previously served as Snyder’s deputy legal counsel.

Clement also has served as Snyder’s cabinet secretary. Her dual roles are being split into two jobs as part of the staffing changes the Republican governor made Tuesday, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said.

Mike Zimmer, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, is becoming Snyder’s new cabinet director and will be asked to manage the flow of information and work among state department directors.

Zimmer’s new job is a reflection of changes Snyder is making to his administration following an admission of errors made in management of Flint’s switch to Flint River water in 2014. As a result, toxic lead metal leached into the city’s drinking water supply.

“Improving the culture of state government to ensure we are continuing to put people first is as important in my office as it is across all departments,” Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder appointed Zimmer’s chief deputy, Shelly Edgerton, to be the new director of the business licensing and regulation agency.

Beth Emmitt, the governor’s scheduler, was promoted to deputy chief of staff, according to Snyder’s office.

In Snyder’s communications office, Anna Heaton was promoted to press secretary. She had been a deputy press secretary for the past year.

Heaton fills the job that was left vacant in February when Snyder’s office moved former press secretary Dave Murray to a communications director job in the state’s Department of Talent Economic Development.

Murray’s departure was part of another Flint-related shakeup in the governor’s office in which communications director Meegan Holland was reassigned to a special projects manager position.

Adler, a veteran of media relations in state government, was then promoted to Snyder’s communications director job in February.

Communications office aide Josh Paciorek was promoted to deputy press secretary, according to a news release.

Snyder’s other deputy press secretary, Laura Biehl, will resume working for Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in a role she previously had, Adler said.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

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Twitter:@ChadLivengood