RICHMOND — Commerce Secretary Esther Lee, who helped Gov. Ralph Northam assemble Virginia’s first majority-female Cabinet, has stepped down three months into the job.
Lee left “for family reasons,” Clark Mercer, chief of staff to Northam (D), said in an email to administration officials late Monday afternoon.
Northam appointed Brian Ball, a lawyer who has served as deputy secretary under Lee, to replace her.
“He will continue the outstanding work of Secretary Esther Lee, who unfortunately will leave the administration for family reasons,” Mercer wrote. “Brian previously served as the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade and joined this administration after many years as a successful attorney. Much of his practice focused on matters pertaining to economic development.”
Ball’s appointment is subject to approval by the legislature. Lee’s departure was first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Lee was a Fairfax economic development official when Northam tapped her for his Cabinet in January. She had previously served as an official in President Barack Obama’s administration, serving as a senior policy adviser to the U.S. secretary of commerce, according to her biography on the Council of Korean Americans, which she co-founded.
She was one of Northam’s final picks as he assembled what his office described as the first majority-female Cabinet in state history. She was one of eight women in the 15-member Cabinet.