Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe began shaping his administration Monday, filling key administrative positions with veteran Democratic operatives with extensive experience he hopes will enable him to move his agenda forward.
McAuliffe (D) named Paul Reagan as his chief of staff; Suzette Denslow as deputy chief of staff; Ric Brown as secretary of finance; and Levar as the secretary of the commonwealth.
Reagan, Denslow and Brown all have long careers working for several top Democratic elected officials, including governors and members of Congress. Their collective expertise and many relationships in Richmond could help blunt criticism of McAuliffe’s lack of governing experience, which became an issue during his campaign against Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II.
And Brown, whose tenure as finance secretary will now span the terms of three governors, will bring crucial knowledge to a budget process expected to be squeezed by the continuing effects of federal budget cuts on Virginia’s economy.
McAuliffe, who has pledged a “mainstream, bipartisan” approach to governing, said during a brief news conference that the newly appointed members of his team will help him “find common ground with leaders of both parties around solutions that create jobs, grow our economy, and help navigate the uncertainty that we will face over the coming years.
“They are the ideal foundation for an administration that is devoted to building new bridges to compromise and erasing old partisan lines in the sand.”
Reagan has been involved in politics for more than 30 years, including serving as chief of staff to Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D) and former Democratic senator Jim Webb. In Richmond, Reagan worked as communications director for former governor Mark R. Warner (D).
“There are few people in this commonwealth who can match Paul’s experience, practical knowledge of Virginia and administrative skills,” McAuliffe said. “Paul’s knowledge of this commonwealth and how we interact will be an invaluable asset to Virginia as this administration begins, as will his calm, collaborative and decisive leadership style.”
Denslow most recently served as chief of staff for Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones (D).
“Suzette’s talent, professionalism and knowledge of Virginia policy make her an invaluable asset,” McAuliffe said. “She has helped lead this city to a new chapter of economic growth, and I am thrilled she will bring her record of accomplishment to my administration.”
Previously, Denslow served as legislative director for both Warner and former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D). She was also deputy secretary of education for former Democratic governor L. Douglas Wilder.
Brown is the current secretary of finance. He has served the state for more than 40 years, working for 12 different governors, he said.
“It’s a privilege to be asked to stay,” Brown said. “I’m going to try to help as much as I can for as long as I can.”
McAuliffe said Brown has agreed to stay in the position at least through the first budget cycle. When Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) was elected, Brown said he planned to stay on for a short time. He remained in the post throughout McDonnell’s term.
McAuliffe said Brown’s appointment is crucial to bringing continuity at a time when the state faces fiscal challenges as a result of sequestration.
Republican leaders told him that if he could persuade Brown to join his administration, it would “probably be one of the smartest things you could do for the commonwealth.”
He said he enlisted help from Wilder and McDonnell to encourage Brown to stay.
“Secretary Brown has been a steady hand in a time of great uncertainty in our economy. He has contributed as much as anyone to helping Virginia weather the great recession and its fallout by protecting education, transportation and other key investments in Virginia’s economy,” McAuliffe said.
Stoney, McAuliffe’s deputy campaign manager, was described by McAuliffe as his “closest adviser” during the transition process and the “chief conduit to Virginia leaders from both political parties as we continue to prepare to take office.”
McAuliffe, who narrowly won the governor’s race two weeks ago, said Monday that he has spent the past two weeks meeting with elected leaders from both parties and working with his transition team to assemble his administration.
Reagan, Denslow, Brown and Stoney, “along with the rest of the team that we are working hard to put together during this transition process, will help me bring together people so that we are working on a common goal of job creation, diversifying our economy, improving education, reforming the [Standards of Learning test], fixing transportation and keeping our economy strong,” McAuliffe said.