URBANDALE, Iowa — Add government architects to the resumes of David Roederer and Jeff Boeyink.
They are the two men designated by governor-elect Terry Branstad to build a new management structure from the ground up that will guide the state’s executive branch and its functions for the next four years.
The recently designated leaders of the Branstad transition team already have been besieged by interested candidates seeking roles in the new administration that takes charge once Branstad is administered the oath of office Jan. 14. Branstad, 63, a rural Boone Republican, will receive the keys to the Terrace Hill governor’s mansion from Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, who lost a re-election bid to the former four-term GOP governor in the Nov. 2 general election.
“Last time I came in at a difficult time, as I am this time,” Branstad said.
He conceded that the task of taking over the reins of state government might not be any easier the fifth time around than it was when he was first elected to serve as Iowa’s governor in 1982.
Branstad had the advantage back then of following an outgoing governor of the same party, although he was elected separately in 1978 and 1980 as former Gov. Robert Ray’s lieutenant governor and served in the legislative branch as the Iowa Senate’s presiding officer before Iowa changed to the current system of having the governor and lieutenant governor run as an executive-branch team. This also marks the first time since the 1962 election that the incoming governor is replacing someone he defeated in the general election.
“It’s been nearly 50 years since we’ve had this kind of a situation,” Roederer said.
Branstad also tapped him last week to direct the state Department of Management when his administration fires up in mid-January. He said there has been good cooperation with Culver’s staff, and he expects a smooth transition of power.
Department heads likely to roll
The task at hand for Roederer and Boeyink in less than 70 days is to help Branstad interview and hire new state agency directors, begin a detailed assessment of the state’s budget situation in anticipation of submitting a two-year budget plan to lawmakers by Jan. 31 and formulate policy initiatives that Branstad will present to the newly configured 84th General Assembly.
A separate nonprofit organization is being assembled to coordinate the activities surrounding the inauguration, which Branstad has indicated will not be a flashy, glitzy affair.
The new administration will be a mix of old and new. Boeyink will be undertaking his first government assignment as Branstad’s chief of staff after serving in the private sector and political capacities, while Roederer is a carryover from past administrations having served as Branstad’s commerce department director and former chief of staff.
“I only changed a couple of department heads initially when I came in (in 1983),” Branstad said. “This time, I would expect there would be more changes. I expect there will probably be more changes in department head positions than there was when I took over before.”
Roederer said the new Branstad team likely will feature some current administrators who will be kept on, some past Branstad appointees — such as himself — in mentoring roles and a large share of new faces with new ideas who will have to adjust to and grow in their new positions.
“Because of the financial situation that the state’s in, you can’t really say we’re going to take a time out for a year now and have everybody learn their jobs,” Roederer said. “There are some things where the only way you learn it is through experience. The governor pretty much knows where the restrooms are, so a lot of the startup issues he won’t need to worry about.”
Suffice it to say, this will not be your father’s Branstad administration, given the high-tech rise in computing capabilities, the Internet and social networking since the former governor ended his fourth term in January 1999. Roederer recalled the staff uproar back when administration staffers were forced to give up their Selectric typewriters and upgrade to computers.
Campaigner shifts to policy side
Boeyink said he is eager to dive into his new duties after managing the governor’s successful political comeback with a “lean but efficient” operation that he plans to replicate in the governor’s office. He previously served as an executive and lobbyist for Iowans for Tax Relief and as executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa — but always viewed government from the outside looking in.
“We’re ready to go. I’m excited about it,” Boeyink said. “The campaign side was fine, but I have to tell you, the policy is my passion. Being involved with Gov. Branstad with the development and the implication of the policy, I couldn’t be more excited. I think it’s going to be a great challenge, and knowing the legislative process the way I do, I think that will be a benefit.”
The Branstad administration’s policy path will mirror the goals the governor-elect laid out during the campaign — creating 200,000 jobs, raising Iowans’ income by 25 percent, cutting government spending by 15 percent, revamping Iowa’s economic development strategy, reducing corporate and property tax burdens, improving the regulatory climate and re-establishing Iowa as a world-class education leader over the next five years, he said.
“You should look at everything we do and be able to tie it back to one of our goals,” Boeyink said.
One of the keys to Branstad’s success in implementing the changes he envisions will depend on his ability to work with a divided legislature, where Republicans forged a 60-40 majority in the Iowa House but Democrats held onto a 26-24 edge in the Iowa Senate for the next two years.
Branstad said he has been able to work effectively under every legislative scenario — Democrats in full control, Republicans in full control and split control like it is now, noting he was “in a much more hostile working environment than now” when his first term began in 1983 and Democrats held majorities in both chambers.