Topeka The most visible member of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s staff is leaving next month to become the state Lottery’s deputy director.
Brownback said Friday that Communications Director Sherriene Jones-Sontag will join the lottery July 8. She has overseen the administration’s communications operations and served as Brownback’s press secretary and chief spokeswoman since he took office in January 2011 and had the same role in his successful campaign for governor in 2009 and 2010.
The governor praised Jones-Sontag in a statement, calling her a “trusted adviser.” His office said he would name a new communications direction within a few weeks, and he told reporters, “I’m sorry to lose her.”
“I’m excited about her in this new challenge,” he said. “That’s a tough job, to be the information officer for any governor, and she’s done a great job at it.”
Jones-Sontag is a former broadcast journalist who also operated her own communications company. She was communications director to then-House Speaker Melvin Neufeld in 2007 and 2008. Both Brownback and Neufeld are Republicans.
On Brownback’s staff, Jones-Sontag’s salary was $72,000, while the deputy lottery director’s job pays a little more than $84,000 a year, according to a state payroll database available online.
The Lottery has about 100 employees and an annual budget of about $335 million, although most of it goes to lottery prizes and payments to the mangers of three state-owned casinos.
Kansas voters authorized a state lottery in 1986 by approving an amendment to the state constitution, and ticket sales began a year later. In 2007, legislators authorized casinos, with the Lottery as the owner of the gambling rights.
“It’s just a great opportunity,” Jones-Sontag said. “The Lottery has had a great 25 years of success, and I’m just looking forward to helping them build on the success.”