Topeka Gov.-elect Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday picked Topeka businessman Howard Fricke to be her secretary of administration, a position that oversees critical areas of state government. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.
Fricke, 66, is currently chairman of the board of Security Benefit Group of Cos., a company with $10 billion in assets. Fricke said he will keep his job as board chairman while he is secretary of administration.
Moments before her announcement, Sebelius said she received a state ethics ruling that said Fricke could continue to serve on the Security Benefit board while being secretary of administration.
Security Benefit administers the life and disability insurance policies for the state of Kansas. The contract is currently up for renewal, state officials said. Sebelius said Fricke would recuse himself from any decisions that would affect business between the state and Security Benefit.
Fricke was chief executive of Security Benefit until two years ago.
"We are thrilled to have someone of Howard Fricke's caliber willing to get involved in state government," Sebelius said.
The pick of Fricke marks the second time Sebelius, a Democrat, has reached toward Republicans. Fricke said that although he is a registered Republican, he voted for Sebelius.
Sebelius' running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect John Moore, who will serve as secretary of commerce, was a Republican, but switched registration to the Democratic Party when Sebelius put him on her ticket.
If confirmed by the Senate, Fricke will oversee many of the inter-agency dealings in state government, including purchases and personnel. Fricke also is chairman of a task force appointed by Sebelius that is reviewing the state budget.
In the 1970s, he served as a cabinet secretary of business and economic development in Illinois.
Fricke said it would be inappropriate to announce any immediate changes in the administrative department. "You can't run government exactly like a business but I think there are a number of fundamental management practices that you can bring from the business experience," he said.
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