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Jerry Brown's choices for key posts reflect his long career

Some held high positions when Jerry Brown was governor in the 1970s. Veterans of the Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger administrations, career state bureaucrats and high-level corporate executives are in the mix.

January 06, 2011|By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
  • From left, lawyer James M. Humes worked for Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown; Mary Nichols will continue in her position as air board leader; and former state schools chief Louis "Bill" Honig will sit on the Board of Education.
From left, lawyer James M. Humes worked for Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown; Mary… (Sacramento Bee / Reuters…)

Reporting from Sacramento — Gov. Jerry Brown reached back through his four decades in public office Wednesday to fill key staff and cabinet posts and replace seven Arnold Schwarzenegger appointees to the State Board of Education.

Some of those named held high-level positions in Sacramento when Brown was governor in the 1970s — upstarts without political experience then, seasoned government hands now. Veterans of the Gray Davis and Schwarzenegger administrations, career state bureaucrats and high-level corporate executives were all in the mix.

Brown also gave his wife a top job, without a salary.

All 21 appointments announced Wednesday went to Democrats.

James M. Humes, who was Brown's top aide as attorney general, will be one of the most powerful officials in the new administration, along with Nancy McFadden, a former PG&E executive.

The state's sitting air board chief, Mary Nichols, who pushed pioneering environmental policies during Brown's first stint as governor and later helped Schwarzenegger implement the state's anti-global-warming law, will stay on.

Former state schools chief Louis "Bill" Honig, who resigned from that office after being convicted of four felonies — later reduced to misdemeanors — will sit on the Board of Education.

Brown, known as a hands-on manager, has said he wants a less hierarchical structure than his predecessor's and opted Wednesday not to bestow on any aide the title of chief of staff. Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, was the state's most powerful bureaucrat in the five years she held the job.

The choices reflect Brown's continuing resistance to liberal orthodoxy. Serving alongside labor leaders will be corporate executives and veterans of the Schwarzenegger administration. The governor, who gets involved in intricate details of policy decisions, is known to seek opinion from people of diverse ideologies; the group announced Wednesday will provide that.

Humes, 51, will be Brown's executive secretary for administration, legal affairs and policy. Humes was Brown's top deputy in the attorney general's office and for the last four years has worked closely with Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown.

Gust Brown played a major part in her husband's gubernatorial campaign and will have an integral role in the new administration. Brown appointed her special counsel.

McFadden, a former advisor to Davis, will be the new governor's executive secretary for legislation, appointments and policy — Brown's top liaison with the Legislature. She and Humes are splitting a job traditionally held by a chief of staff.

With the governor expected to announce a restructuring and paring back of state agencies in the coming months, he tapped seasoned hands and numbers-crunchers to head some of the largest agencies.

Brown selected John Laird, a former chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, to lead the Natural Resources Agency. The agency oversees the state's water, energy and parks departments, conservancies and other departments that manage the environment.

Marty Morgenstern, California's top labor negotiator under both Brown and former Gov. Gray Davis, was selected as labor secretary.

Laird and Morgenstern join Finance Director Ana Matosantos and Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley as the only people named to Brown's cabinet thus far.

Brown also put his stamp on the Board of Education.

Honig was elected three times as superintendent of public instruction but was forced to quit in 1993, after his conviction in a conflict-of-interest case involving the channeling of state funds to his wife's employees. Before that, he earned a reputation as outspoken, sparring with Republican Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson over education funding and policy. His new position is unpaid.

Honig "has the knowledge and skill to be quite valuable," Brown said, "and it would be a shame to waste that."

While the governor sets up his administration, an audition is underway for a different kind of post, that of top dog — literally.

Sutter, the Pembroke Welsh corgi who has been photographed with Brown and his wife in recent days, has been living with the couple on a trial basis, according to the governor's office.

The dog belongs to Brown's sister, Kathleen, a former state treasurer and current Goldman Sachs executive who is moving to Chicago to avoid any apparent conflict between her business and her brother's new job.

Sutter apparently is not heading east with her.

anthony.york@latimes.com

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