Friday, 25 June 2010 17:51

Louisiana Gov. Jindal Makes Major Administration Changes After Davis's Resignation

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Louisiana Governor Jindal, who has been a daily figure on national television and media due to BP Gulf Oil Spill has rearranged some of the administration furniture with some major changes.

On Friday, he announced that Ruth Johnson will serve as Secretary of the Department of Social Services (DSS) and Kristy Nichols will serve as the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

Kristy Nichols, currently serving as Secretary of DSS, will replace Paul Rainwater as the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff once Rainwater assumes his new role as Commissioner of Administration.

Rainwater will move from the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Administration position as a result of Angelle Davis's resignation yesterday and his appointment to the  Secretary's position.   Prior to his taking the  Deputy Chief of Staff Position Rainwater served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

Ruth Johnson will take over as Secretary for Nichols. Johnson and Nichols will assume their new roles on August 9, 2010. Governor Jindal also named Interim Secretary Sherri Lebas as Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). LeBas was appointed as Interim Secretary in February 2010 following the resignation of William D. Ankner.

Governor Jindal said, “We look forward to Kristy Nichols taking on her new role as Deputy Chief of Staff. She will continue to be a strong member of our team, as she is always looking for outside-the-box ways to get things done. Ruth Johnson has a long history of serving our state and will be a great secretary of DSS. Sheri LeBas will continue to do a great job for the people of our state as the permanent Secretary of DOTD.”

Biography of Ruth Johnson:
Ruth Johnson was appointed as Department of Social Services’ (DSS) Undersecretary for the Office of Management and Finance in October 2008. In this role, Johnson oversees DSS’ $1 billion budget and is responsible for the management of fiscal services, human resources, information technology and planning, budget and support services. In addition, Johnson participates in the development of long and short-range strategic planning for DSS and manages special projects as assigned by the Secretary.

Currently, Johnson leads DSS’ reorganization and modernization efforts designed to streamline the agency, decrease DSS’ overall footprint and implement new technology and systems to provide DSS clients with more efficient and effective services. Johnson oversees initiatives including the development and implementation of a statewide customer service call center, web-based enrollment, electronic case records and document imaging systems with the goal of improving customer service and client outcomes while reducing duplication, providing quality assurance and streamlining business processes.

Johnson was instrumental in developing the streamlining recommendations that DSS presented to the Governor’s Commission on Streamlining Louisiana Government. Johnson’s recommendations identified more than $32 million in cost savings for DSS.

Prior to her appointment at DSS Undersecretary, Johnson served as the Deputy Undersecretary of the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) from 2005 to 2008. As Deputy Undersecretary, she was responsible for a budget of $186 million.. Johnson directed accounting, procurement and financial management policies and procedures and developed a funding application and review process for grant awards.

Johnson also served as OJJ’s Account Administrator where she created the Office of Management and Finance and assisted in the development of the Human Resources Department as a result of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2003, which separated juvenile corrections from adult corrections. She also implemented a system that improved the accuracy of budget projections and corrected calculations of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program matching funds.

From 2002 to 2005, Johnson served as an accountant manager at the Department of Corrections where she participated in the development of an audit, payment and approval process for the local housing of state inmates.

Prior to joining the Department of Corrections, Johnson worked in the Office of Statewide Reporting and Accounting where she revised and simplified accounting close procedures.

Johnson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Biography of Kristy Nichols:
As Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Social Services (DSS), Kristy Nichols is currently leading the agency through a reorganization that will allow DSS to create a more efficient, effective agency that will serve the holistic needs of clients, expedite service delivery, improve efficiencies to enhance client contact and better align DSS’s core mission to the public and the clients the agency serves. This new model of service delivery will no longer require clients to visit a physical office location to apply or receive information about DSS services.

Governor Bobby Jindal also asked Nichols to lead an interagency response team to address health and social services, workforce and compensation issues arising from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

During her first 18 months as DSS Secretary, Nichols led the agency to develop a new disaster-sheltering plan, launched the nation’s only online pre-application process for disaster food stamps, revamped child and adult residential licensing, announced a plan to reform child care, oversaw a workforce development pilot program targeted at multiple populations, from adults on food stamps to the disabled and young adults exiting foster care. Additionally, Nichols is working with partner agencies to develop a new state system of care for children with behavioral health needs.

Nichols was appointed Secretary of DSS by Gov. Jindal on December 15, 2008, after serving as interim director of the agency for the previous three months.

Before her appointment to DSS, Nichols served as a policy advisor on health and social services initiatives to Governor Bobby Jindal. As a policy advisor, she worked on the successful passage of Governor Jindal's health care legislative package during the 2008 legislative session, including legislation on mental health care reform, health care transparency initiatives, increasing health care technology, and increasing access to private health insurance for uninsured Louisiana children. Previously, Nichols served as a policy advisor for Governor-elect Jindal's transition team from November 2007 to January 2008.

From July 2002 to November 2007, Nichols served as the director of the Bureau of Primary Care and Rural Health at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH). During that time, Nichols led community-based Hurricane Katrina recovery planning and coalition building, resulting in more than $21 million in federal funding for restoring access to primary health care services in disaster-recovery areas and $50 million in federal funding for health care workforce development in disaster-recovery areas. Based on her work with DHH, was a recipient of the 2006 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leadership Award. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the award recognizes outstanding individuals who overcome daunting odds to improve health and health care, especially to underserved populations in communities across the United States.

Nichols has a bachelor's of administration in business from the University of Tennessee and a master's in communication from the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. She also served as an instructor in the communications department at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, and was a recipient of the 2006 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leadership Award.

Biography of Sherri LeBas:
Sherri LeBas has 25 years of state service in Louisiana: 19 years at the Department of Transportation and Development and six years with the Division of Administration.

LeBas has served as project manager on numerous projects at DOTD including I-49 in Shreveport and the TIMED program.  While at the Division of Administration, she managed projects for parishes and cities. In 2005, LeBas served as a facilitator for the DOTD Change Management Program working with DOTD personnel and private industry.

In 2006 and 2007, LeBas served as the Assistant to the Secretary for Policy..  In 2008 and 2009, LeBas served as DOTD's Deputy Secretary, overseeing the Capital Program, the surplus program, ARRA, legislative issues and managing day-to-day operations. In addition to serving as Deputy Secretary, LeBas also served as Acting Chief Engineer. Since February 5, 2010, LeBas served as Interim Secretary of DOTD. Sherri LeBas graduated from LSU with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and is a licensed professional engineer.
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