Governor’s chief of staff says transformation will borrow from past Homeland Security experience

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 799 views 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s chief of staff Alison Williams plans to draw on experiences from more than a decade ago as she oversees a plan to consolidate state agencies.

Williams, who worked with Hutchinson when he was undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said there were some valuable lessons learned as that agency ramped up in the wake of 9/11.

“The point of the transition team really comes out of the ideas that the governor and I both took away from our time in the Department of Homeland Security, when that transition team started,” she said. “The transition team will be putting together binders of information regarding the agencies that are a part of those departments, the grants that they have, the legislation that has affected them in this session, so that a secretary can come in and really get to work with their executive team when they get started in July.”

Williams appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics to discuss the governor’s transformation plan, which will consolidate 42 state agencies, boards and commissions under the umbrella of 15 cabinet posts. Hutchinson signed the massive 2,000-plus page bill into law this past week.

“I think the most challenging [item] this session was the transformation bill, not so much for any policy reason or real concern about it, but it’s a lengthy bill. It’s going to be a legacy for the governor, and people wanted to get it right,” she said.

It’s unlikely that all of the 15 cabinet posts will be named at once, but Williams said that some secretary appointments should be named “in the next 30 days.” While Hutchinson has not confided any names to her at this point, she believes “those conversations will happen soon.”

Williams also said she expected the governor to coordinate with the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the state Highway Commission to develop a plan to pitch to voters as part of a permanent half-cent sales tax increase that would produce more than $200 million annually. The bill is part of a $300 million plan that Hutchinson lobbied for in the last legislative session, but don’t expect to see specifics for several more months.

“I doubt it’ll be before this summer. There’s a lot going on before then,” she said. “I know the Department of Transportation certainly has proposals of how they’d like to use that. Now is an opportunity to dig down deeper into that and bring that to the voters.”

You can watch Williams’ full interview in the video below.

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