The ongoing game of musical chairs in the administration of Gov. Piyush Jindal continues with the naming of his third commissioner of administration and at least his third chief of staff in less than five years.
Yet, just like major league baseball managers, the same old retreads keep getting moved around to different teams.
Another analogy could be that appointees are trying to emulate their boss by not staying in one job long enough to learn the names of their subordinates—not that Piyush, with his glowing personality, ever really cared to.
Current Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater has been named Jindal’s chief of staff to succeed Stephen Waguespack who is returning to the private sector.
But the real bombshell was not that Deputy Chief of Staff Kristy Nichols would not be elevated to Waguespack’s position but that she would make the quantum leap to Rainwater’s job.
The commissioner of administration is the governor’s chief budget officer.
Announcement of the appointments, which become effective on Oct. 15, caught the Division of Administration flat-footed and may have some headed for the exits as soon as job interviews can be arranged.
Rainwater will be paid $204,000 per year, the same as he now makes and Nichols will get a $4,000 raise to $167,000, the amount paid Waguespack.
Nichols, like Superintendent of Education John White, appears to possess a certain personality that tends to rub people the wrong way. In White’s case, it simply appears that he is in way over his head in his job. With Nichols, it’s a habit of being both condescending and abrasive in her relationship with others, including her testimony before legislative committees.
Moreover, she was the one who attempted unsuccessfully to steer Jindal’s retirement package through the legislature this year—something state employees probably will not easily forget.
She will become the third commissioner of administration. Angelé Davis, who served as deputy commissioner under former Gov. Mike Foster, was appointed as Jindal’s first commissioner of administration before leaving two years to join Arkel International, a Baton Rouge-based company. She was succeeded by Rainwater.
Rainwater, despite frequent confrontations between LouisianaVoice and the Division of Administration (DOA), has done an admirable job of carrying the water for a governor who more often than not is consumed with either firing people, taking control of the state’s flagship university, traveling out of state or alienating state workers, teachers, legislators and the higher education community in general.
Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s first chief of staff, resigned last October and was replaced by Waguespack. No official reason was given for Waguespack’s departure other than that he was taking advantage of an opportunity in the private sector.
There is some speculation, however, that he may be named as the new general counsel to the LSU System, replacing Ray Lamonica who resigned under pressure last month.
This year alone, Jindal has fired LSU President John Lombardi, LSU Health Care System head Dr. Fred Cerise and the head of the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, reassigned Interim LSU Public Hospital CEO Dr. Roxanne Townsend and demoted, in addition to Lamonica, two legislators from their committee assignments.
Last month Scott Angelle, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, resigned to run for the Public Service Commission in the midst of the crisis of the growing sinkhole at Bayou Corne and continued bubbling in Lake Peigneur, both in Assumption Parish.
It didn’t help Jindal, PR-wise, when he named former executive counsel Tim Barfield as Secretary of the Department of Revenue at a salary of $250,000, more than twice the salary of his predecessor, Cynthia Bridges, who was also fired by Jindal.
In July, Legislative Fiscal Officer H. Gordon Monk, saying the pressures of dealing with infighting among legislative factions, retired after 33 years on the job.
“It appears that the Jindal administration is beginning to implode,” said a Lafayette attorney on Monday.