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Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer announces more key cabinet appointments

Gretchen Whitmer
Michigan Senate Democrats
Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Democratic Leader delivers the Democratic response to the State of the State speech

Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer announced major cabinet appointments on Thursday. Whitmer calls this the second wave of appointments to her administration – which starts on January 1st.

Among the hires announced Thursday is a new director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Liesel Clark will lead the embattled department. It’s been criticized by environmentalists and business groups in the past.

The department has also had issues internally. Whitmer says there’s a lot to fix.

“We do have an issue of rebuilding morale amongst our state employees,” said Whitmer during a conference call for the media. “Earning the trust of the public. And these are essential to us being able to get our job done."

The department has been under fire for years for its handling of the Flint water crisis. Clark will take over from Governor Rick Snyder’s current appointment, Heidi Grether – a former BP lobbyist.

Another appointment is a new director of the Michigan State Police. Whitmer chose Captain Joe Gasper to take over for current Colonel Kriste Etue.

Gasper currently works as the emergency manager for MSP. The department has faced criticism, in part, for a lack of minorities on the force. Whitmer says Gasper will work to address that.

“We’re going to remedy this and I think he’s got a thoughtful plan to do that, to change some of the cultural, I think, challenges, that are in the MSP,” she said.

During her campaign, Whitmer vowed to fix the roads, and a key appointment will be her new director of the Department of Transportation, Paul Ajegba. He says the department has a lot of needs, but not enough resources.

“We still have to learn to be innovative,” he said. “Not be afraid to implement on innovative ideas to try and stretch that [sic] dollars.”

Ajegba has worked for the Department of Transportation for 28 years. Other familiar faces in Whitmer’s administration include Heidi Washington. She’ll keep her post as director of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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