Perhaps Kansas should feel complimented, but the exit of a number of top state officials to take positions in the Obama administration is starting to add up.
First came former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who left office in April to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Kansas Secretary of Aging Kathy Greenlee was next, accepting a nomination to be the assistant HHS secretary, administration on aging.
In June, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Adrian Polansky was tapped by Obama to head the Farm Service Agency in Kansas for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And this week, Kansas Commissioner of Education Alexa Posny was nominated to serve as an assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services in the U.S. Department of Education.
Such losses certainly aren’t unprecedented. A new Democratic president is bound to be looking for talented people, especially those who have served in state Democratic administrations like the one led by Sebelius. It’s also likely that Sebelius has been in a position to make a few suggestions. She appointed both Greenlee and Polansky. Greenlee, a Lawrence resident and Kansas University graduate, also worked for Sebelius when she was insurance commissioner.
Posny, another Lawrence resident, was hired by the Kansas State Board of Education and wasn’t a Sebelius appointee, but her exit will leave a significant hole in the state education department. She was hired as education commissioner to replace Bob Corkins, who had no experience in education but had the conservative credentials board members were looking for at that time.
Since taking the commissioner’s job in 2006, Posny had put the education department back on a more professional footing. Although the chairwoman of the state board of education and others wish Posny well if she is confirmed in her new position, they also know they face a challenge in hiring her replacement and helping Kansas public schools weather budget cuts in the meantime.
Gov. Mark Parkinson has stepped up admirably as a leader since Sebelius’ departure, and the people he taps to replace other exiting officials are likely to do the same, even though they are likely to serve for a relatively short time. It’s a little hard to lose so much governmental experience, but we’re confident the former Kansas officials will represent the state well and that Parkinson and his new appointees will rise to the challenge of filling their roles here at home.