Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 4, 2010

Governor-elect builds transition team

He turns to past state government leaders for help


---- — DETROIT (AP) — The day after his decisive win over Democratic Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Michigan Gov.-elect Rick Snyder began building his transition team and looking ahead to the challenges he'll confront Jan. 1.

The Ann Arbor venture capitalist has experience in the boardroom as a former executive at computer maker Gateway Inc. and as a partner at accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand.

But he's new to elective office and turned Wednesday to several past state government leaders to help smooth the handover from Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration.

The transition team's chair will be Doug Rothwell, who served as former Republican Gov. John Engler's president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and now leads the executive group Business Leaders for Michigan, which has proposed tax changes and investments to turn around Michigan's economy. Snyder was the MEDC board's first chairman under Engler.

Vice chairs are Rothwell's wife, Sharon Rothwell, a former Engler chief of staff and now a vice president at building products maker Masco Corp., and Mark Murray, a former state treasurer and budget director who now serves as president of retail chain Meijer Inc.

"They form a great nucleus of Michiganders that have both public experience and private experience — and a wonderful combination to deliver great results," Snyder said at a news conference in Detroit on Wednesday.

Snyder will face some daunting challenges when he takes office. Michigan's jobless rate is 13 percent, the nation's second-highest, and voters said Tuesday they're looking for a governor who can do more to spur faster growth in the state's economy.

The new governor will need to have a budget plan in place by March 6 that deals with a deficit of at least $1.4 billion. While Republicans will control both the House and Senate, he'll have to deal with scores of new faces and an economy that's not recovering fast enough to restore more than a fraction of the nearly 860,000 jobs lost since state employment peaked in June 2000.

Snyder wants to lower business taxes by at least $1.5 billion, which could double the size of the deficit. He has offered few specific ideas on how he'll balance the budget but said solving those challenges requires rethinking how to run government and the way people interact with it.

"It's about customer-service government," Snyder said Wednesday. "Business and government are different — there's no profit motive in government. But there is something that business has that needs to (be in) government that in my view has been missing far too long, and that's showing a positive return on investment. ... That's the focus we're going to bring to Lansing, and that's long overdue." Snyder also met Wednesday with Granholm, who was unable to run again because of term limits. He thanked her for her "graciousness" and said she offered help in getting his incoming administration quickly up to speed.

Granholm has three children, the same number as Snyder, though her children were younger than his when she took office in 2003. Granholm shared her thoughts on how to deal with the demands of being a parent while governor, Snyder said.

He plans to keep living in his home in Washtenaw County's Superior Township rather than moving into the governor's residence in Lansing as Granholm did. He doesn't want his youngest daughter, now in ninth grade, to have to change schools.

The multimillionaire has been easing out of his duties at the Ardesta LLC venture capital firm he founded a decade ago in Ann Arbor and soon will be putting his investments at arm's length so there won't be a conflict of interest with his duties as governor, transition spokesman Bill Nowling said.

It hasn't been decided if that means setting up a blind trust. At this stage it's still "something that remains to be worked through with the attorneys and the accountants," Nowling said.

Snyder said he expects to launch a transition website this week and announce appointments to his administration next week.