Beshear Makes More Cabinet Appointments, Rocky Adkins To Be ‘Senior Adviser’

Dec 2, 2019

Credit Ryland Barton

With a little more than a week until his inauguration, on Monday Gov.-elect Andy Beshear appointed five more officials to help run his incoming administration.

Beshear announced two of his eleven cabinet secretaries on Monday: former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will serve as Transportation Cabinet secretary and Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman will be the next secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

Beshear said that his picks would help set a “constructive and collaborative tone” in Frankfort as Kentucky returns to divided government.

“We have a real opportunity here. A real opportunity where everybody’s been able to take a breath after an election and to get this thing right. To show where we agree we can move forward and where we disagree we can do so civilly,” Beshear said.

Beshear is a Democrat will take office with Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature. And while he will be at the helm of the 11 state agencies that run most of state government, the legislature will be in charge of writing the budget that will fund those agencies for the next two years.

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman will hold a dual role in state government as both a constitutional officer and secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

Coleman previously worked as an assistant principal for Nelson County High School and said she wants to give educators a “seat at the table.”

“We will listen to our teachers, schools, social workers, principals. Because they are on the front lines and they know what works. And they also know what doesn’t work,” Coleman said.

Coleman will be the first lieutenant governor to head up a cabinet since Lt. Gov. Steve Pence served as Justice and Public Safety secretary in Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration.

Former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said that he’s missed the public sector since leaving office last year and looks forward to being the next Transportation Cabinet secretary.

“I’ve missed public service. Not every single day, but a lot,” Gray said.

Gray is the chairman of Gray Construction, a prominent engineering, design and construction firm based in Kentucky. He promised to run the transportation cabinet with “integrity and with transparency” as Republican leaders of the Senate have proposed a bill that seeks to strip the governor’s appointment power for the position.

Beshear also tapped 33-year Democratic state Rep. Rocky Adkins to be his “senior adviser” — an atypical position that the governor-elect said would involve working with the legislature and other cabinets.

“Rocky’s experience is broader than any individual cabinet. His relationships are incredibly important. His ability to navigate Frankfort and the issues that he’s seen,” Beshear said.

The announcement means that Adkins will not run for U.S. Senate next year as has been rumored; he will also step down from his seat representing House District 99, which includes Elliott, Lewis and Rowan Counties.

Party registration in the district favors Democrats, but Republicans have made gains in the region in recent years. Elliott County went in favor of Donald Trump in 2016, the first time ever for a Republican.

Adkins said he will officially resign his seat after Beshear takes office, meaning the incoming governor will set a special election date for the seat.

“This was not an easy decision, but I want to be in the right place to where I know that we can make a difference. Not saying that you can’t there [the legislature], but to be in a different role,” Adkins said.

Democrats currently have 39 seats and Republicans have 61 seats in the state House of Representatives.

Beshear named two other officials on Monday — Col. Haldane B. Lamberton will be Kentucky’s next adjutant general and former Lexington Fire Chief Keith Jackson will be the next commissioner of Veterans Affairs.

Beshear said he would announce more appointments on Friday.