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Greitens plans to have a COO help run state government

by Bob Watson | January 2, 2017 at 6:50 a.m. | Updated January 2, 2017 at 7:45 a.m.
Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard

Gov.-elect Eric Greitens this week plans to name a state government chief operating officer for his new administration.

That position isn't named in either Missouri's Constitution or state laws.

The Constitution says: "The supreme executive power shall be vested in a governor," whose duty is to "take care that the laws are distributed and faithfully executed," and who also is to "be a conservator of the peace throughout the state."

Executing those laws also gives the governor the power to appoint people to run most of the executive branch departments of state government.

Among his other powers, the Constitution gives the governor authority to manage the spending of the money that lawmakers appropriate in each state budget, to fill vacancies in most public offices, and to sign or veto proposed laws passed by the General Assembly.

But the idea has state Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard's support.

"While we still don't know who the governor-elect will add to his team as the chief operating officer, I am confident this person will help lead Missouri into a positive direction," Richard, R-Joplin, said Friday. "The governor-elect has said he wants to run a more efficient state government, and his pick for COO will be a major player in making that happen."

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said Friday: "I am always open to new ideas on how we can improve state government and make it more efficient and accountable to the citizens of Missouri. Without knowing who this person is and what they will all be responsible for, it's impossible to decide if this is a good or bad move. Gov.-elect Greitens deserves a chance to try things like this that he believes will help move Missouri forward."

Kehoe said he looks forward to meeting Greitens' COO choice, "listening to his or her suggestions, and finding ways to work together."

State Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, said Friday: "I hope that the message is spread to all department heads that we need to be a helping hand and not have a 'gotcha mentality' to our citizens and small businesses.

"The citizenry should not fear the government when it seeks guidance, and we should give the advice and assistance to bring prosperity and compliance with the law."

State Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, told the News Tribune on Saturday: "Missouri taxpayers deserve an efficient government that meets the needs of our state.

"An evaluation of every department could save our state money and free up budget funds to pay our employees better and fund important projects."

Austin Chambers, Greitens' campaign manager and now senior adviser, told reporters last week: "Our COO, just as a reminder - Eric talked about this many times during the campaign - is going to come in and help the governor transform government. He's an outsider who's going to come in and help shake things up, and bring overhaul and efficiency to a state government that badly needs it."

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who later started a charity to help returning veterans, campaigned for governor as an "outsider" intending to clean up government in Jefferson City.

He never had held a political, elected office before winning this year's primary and general elections. He'll be sworn in Jan. 9 as the 56th governor in Missouri's nearly 200-year history.

Although Greitens and his staff have not identified the COO, Chambers said the appointee will be "someone who has a successful business career, who's coming in to government (from the business world) because they want to serve the public, and they believe in the governor's (Greitens) agenda of taking Missouri in a new direction. In order to do that, we have to change the way business is done in Jefferson City."

Chambers said the individual is "not someone who's been in elected office or been involved in politics" before now.

He could not identify a salary for the COO, but told reporters "there's a potential that they will volunteer" for the job.

The person being named Greitens' chief operating officer went through the same vetting and interview process as "the rest of our senior staff and Cabinet-level positions," Chambers said.

"There's a search, and then there are interviews with that search team. There are interviews with the senior staff. There's interviews with the governor-elect. And then there's a vetting process that a vetting firm does, and gives us a vet on that person and a background on that person."

Greitens' staff then reviews that information and, Chambers explained, "if that checks out and we're still pleased with that person, they're made an offer, and hopefully they join the team."


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