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Schwarzenegger Team Focuses on 2 Key Posts

Selecting a chief of staff and a finance director is seen as crucial during a short transition.

October 11, 2003|Peter Nicholas and Matea Gold | Times Staff Writers

Hundreds of resumes are flooding into Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's transition team as he scurries in the face of tight deadlines to make the two appointments that, more than any others, will define his new administration.

With the swearing-in set for the middle of next month, Schwarzenegger's advisors are looking most urgently at the jobs of chief of staff and finance director. Both are crucial to launching a new administration and preparing a 2004-05 budget that must go to the printer by December.

Among those believed to be in the running for finance director are Donna Arduin, who Schwarzenegger tapped Thursday to run an audit of the state budget, and former Rep. Bill Baker. The Contra Costa conservative served 12 years in the Assembly and two terms in Congress.

"We're all hearing from people we met 12 years ago on a cruise and gave our business cards to," said Rob Stutzman, spokesman for Schwarzenegger.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 12, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Transition team -- A list of members of Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's transition team in Saturday's Section A mistakenly stated that Ivan Reitman directed Schwarzenegger in the movie "Six Days/Seven Nights." Although Reitman did direct that film, which starred Harrison Ford and Anne Heche, Schwarzenegger did not appear in it. Reitman directed Schwarzenegger in "Junior," "Kindergarten Cop" and "Twins."

The chief of staff is at the top of the pyramid of power in any governor's office. The choice of finance chief is pivotal since Gov. Gray Davis was tossed out Tuesday in part because of concerns about the economy.

"It is critically important due to the fact that we have a tremendous budget deficit staring us in the eye, and that our commitment is to turn the economy around," said Sean Walsh, an aide to the governor-elect. "And we have a difficult time getting from A to Z without having the finance director directly engaged in the process. Those are the most difficult front-burner positions that need to be addressed."

Those jobs amount to a fraction of what faces Schwarzenegger: When he takes office, the new governor will need to immediately appoint about 100 people to staff positions. He can make 1,100 more appointments to various boards, commissions and departments. Although incoming governors typically have two months to staff their administrations, the rapid turnover prompted by the recall gives Schwarzenegger only about a month.

Working from home Friday, he took part in a conference call with more than 60 members of the bipartisan committee that will recommend people for the new administration.

"We underscored the fact that we want Democrats and Republicans in the administration. We're going to want Democrats involved," said Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), chairman of the transition team.

Analysts said the approach is a savvy one. Given the polarization in Sacramento, Schwarzenegger can signal a more conciliatory approach by ensuring that Democrats are not shut out, some said.

"I suspect you'll see Democrats in the Cabinet," said Republican strategist Dan Schnur, who ran Peter Ueberroth's short-lived gubernatorial bid. "Schwarzenegger seems to understand that the strongest message coming from the voters was a distaste for partisan politics as usual."

Democrats appear to grasp that as well. A private strategy memo sent Friday to Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Culver City) and members of the Democratic caucus said of Tuesday's election results: "The conclusion is obvious. The voters want everyone in Sacramento to work together to end the gridlock on fiscal matters."

Schwarzenegger is directly engaged in the hunt for a chief of staff, advisors said. He is phoning members of his transition team asking for suggestions as he puts together a short list.

Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso said that Friday morning he spoke with the governor-elect, who said finding a chief of staff is his most pressing goal.

"I told him, 'I'm here to do whatever I can to help,' " said Caruso, a member of the Los Angeles Police Commission. "This is obviously going to be the shortest transition in the history of California. You have to strike a balance between getting people on board quickly and making sure you get the right people."

Schwarzenegger's circle is tight-lipped about front-running candidates. But Arduin, budget director under Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, was said to be in mix for finance chief. Schwarzenegger tapped her Thursday to audit the state's books and advise him on the size of the budget shortfall. That job is due to end by January, she said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, people close to Schwarzenegger described Arduin's work in Sacramento as something of an audition that could lead to an offer, presuming she would be willing to leave Florida.

"If she performs well," one transition team member said, "that's a real possibility."

Though she only arrived in Sacramento on Thursday night, skepticism about Arduin's role is already surfacing.

State Senate leader John Burton (D-San Francisco) questioned the need for an outsider who has no experience in California.

"I would believe that [Senate GOP leader] Jim Brulte's own budget staff could tell [Schwarzenegger] as much as this woman could tell him about the budget," he said.

"It's not like it's hidden under lock and key. It's a public document. It's open."

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