Va. governor-elect names 3 to cabinet-level posts

AP News
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Posted: Dec 11, 2009 10:55 AM

Virginia Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell appointed Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling his administration's new jobs czar and made it a position in his cabinet.

The appointment Thursday makes good on a pledge McDonnell made during his campaign to broaden the minimal constitutional duties of the lieutenant governor into "chief jobs creation officer," though not his pay of only $36,321 a year.

"I'm going to turn him into the busiest lieutenant governor in the nation," McDonnell said.

Bolling heads a group tasked with romancing major established companies away from other states and urging startup ventures to take root in Virginia. He is one of only three Virginia government officials elected statewide, and because of that, McDonnell felt Bolling would lend the day-to-day initiative greater credibility.

Involving the lieutenant governor in the cabinet is not unique for McDonnell. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, as lieutenant governor, was a regular at meetings of then-Gov. Mark R. Warner's cabinet from 2002 through 2005. Both are Democrats. Bolling, a Republican like McDonnell, was not part of Kaine's cabinet.

McDonnell praised Kaine for convincing several Fortune 500 corporations to leave other states and locate in Virginia the past four years, including the corporate headquarters of the Hilton hotel chain and the giant government and defense contractor Science Applications International Corp.

"I think we need more of that in Virginia," McDonnell said of Kaine, who leaves office Jan. 16.

Besides jetting across the nation and even outside the country recruiting employers, Bolling will be the incoming administration's chief shepherd within the General Assembly for legislation that McDonnell said would make the state's tax, regulatory, legal and labor climate even sweeter for business.

Because Bolling presides over the Senate, he is in a position to tilt a bill in McDonnell's favor by casting a tie-breaking vote in the 40-member Senate, where Democrats hold a spare majority of 21 seats.

Virginia already has a strong right-to-work law, and it is among the most difficult in which to win large jury awards in damage lawsuits.

Besides McDonnell and Bolling, a third major player in Virginia's corps of corporate raiders will be Commerce and Trade Secretary Robert C. Sledd, the retired CEO of Performance Food Group.

"I wanted a corporate executive, I wanted a successful CEO, that had the credibility and the stature and the ability to travel around the country and around the world and look CEOs in the eye and say, `You need to come to Virginia because we're a great place to do business,'" McDonnell said of Sledd.

Sledd started his Richmond-based restaurant food supply company with 50 employees. When he retired, the company had 11,000 workers nationally and about $9 billion in annual revenues, McDonnell said.

Interspersed with global economic development quests, McDonnell said he would begin the monthly visits he pledged to economically hard-hit Southside Virginia on Wednesday. He said that either he or Bolling and Sledd would travel once every 30 days to areas such as Martinsville and Danville where unemployment rates have long been in double digits.

He also announced the appointment of longtime adviser and aide Janet Polarek as secretary of the commonwealth, whose duties will include vetting and recommending nearly 3,500 appointments to state boards, commissions the next four years. She began working for McDonnell 10 years ago managing his 1999 House of Delegates re-election bid.

Polarek, a North Carolina native, managed McDonnell's 2005 campaign for attorney general and held senior roles in this year's race for governor. She was chief of staff and director of administration for the attorney general's office under McDonnell.