TOPEKA — Gov.-elect Laura Kelly, working to assemble an administration that will take office next month, announced Thursday that Will Lawrence will be her chief of staff.
She praised Lawrence, an attorney who has provided counsel to Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, for the past two years, as "a highly skilled professional with a proven track record in the Legislature."
“He has a sharp understanding of the legislative process and the challenges we face as a state," Kelly said. "I’m pleased to have him on the team as we work to rebuild our state.”
Earlier this week, Kelly identified 23 individuals who are advising her transition team, including former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and military veteran Katrina Lewison. Brewer competed with Kelly as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, and Lewison was on the ballot as the lieutenant to Josh Svaty.
Former Gov. Mike Hayden, a Republican who endorsed Kelly, and Brian McClendon, the former Google executive who ran for secretary of state, also are on board.
The advisers are tasked with providing insight into agencies in preparation for the Jan. 14 transition of power. Kelly has set her sights on the massive undertaking of repairing agencies and services that were decimated amid budget woes induced by former Gov. Sam Brownback's supply-side tax cuts.
“Kansans made it very clear that they want us to work together to rebuild our state,” Kelly said. “I’m bringing in experts to help gather information, ask tough questions and assist my staff as we prepare to take office. These folks have diverse backgrounds and knowledge in areas of critical importance. I am grateful to each of them for volunteering their time to help Kansas.”
Lawrence led efforts in August to challenge the validity of signatures provided by independent Greg Orman to secure his entry into the governor's race. Orman offered 10,000 names, or twice the number needed, and a panel of Republican office holders rejected efforts to whittle away at the number.
Hensley said Lawrence would be a natural fit for Kelly and "as good a pick as you could ever have in terms of understanding the legislative process."
Kerry Gooch, a former director of the Kansas Democratic Party, will fill the opening on Hensley's staff. He is the grandson of former state Sen. Rip Gooch and served as campaign manager for Paul Davis in his congressional run this year.
“Kerry’s ability to work well with others and previous experience in the political process make him a great fit to be Chief of Staff,” Hensley said. “The Senate Democratic caucus is looking forward to working with him as we prepare for the 2019 session and beyond.”