Government

Economic 'disruption' spurs Iowa governor's 'new direction'

Reynolds streamlining her team, looking for efficiencies

Gov. Kim Reynolds is interviewed in May in Cedar Rapids. She told The Gazette on Friday she is assembling a new administrative team to take on the challenges of an economy disrupted by rapid technological change and the shortage of skilled workers in the state. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds is interviewed in May in Cedar Rapids. She told The Gazette on Friday she is assembling a new administrative team to take on the challenges of an economy disrupted by rapid technological change and the shortage of skilled workers in the state. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds says she is assembling a new team of key state agency leaders to take on the challenges of an economy “disrupted” by rapid changes in technology and a shortage of skilled workers in vital industries.

Since winning election to her first full term last November, Reynolds has revamped part of her administrative team and made leadership changes in human services, revenue, natural resources, human resources, corrections and parole functions as part of what her office has characterized as a “new direction” for state government.

“I’ve really put a lot of time into building my team. I’ve been very purposeful about it,” the Osceola Republican said in an interview Friday. “When I started, I just said we’re going to change a lot of the ways that we interact with our agencies.

“This is one team and we should be operating as one team, and we need to do a better job of really utilizing our agencies and coordinating with them in a better manner,” she added.

“I think there are some opportunities for us to gain some efficiencies and be more effective, streamline the way that we’re serving Iowans so that we can do a better job of really meeting their needs and expectations,” she said. “This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take some time because it’s change from what we’ve done before, but I’m excited about doing it.”

Reynolds said the state is moving in a “good direction,” but she believes there remains a lot of capacity to grow Iowa’s economic opportunities, which will be her focus leading up to the 2020 legislative session, where she hopes to unveil the next steps to move Iowa forward.

The process of change does not necessarily mean the current approach is wrong, she said, but rather acknowledges “we live in a very disruptive economy” where “technology is impacting everything we do on a daily basis.” That requires constant evaluation of the way things operate, she said.

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“We’re trying to get the right leaders in place — the right people in the right positions,” Reynolds said, and then work with them individually and in clusters “to better coordinate and work together on shared goals. We’ll see how that all fits together, and then we’ll lay that out in the Condition of the State next year and with my legislative priorities.”

The first public indication of the governor’s change in direction came when she abruptly announced earlier this month that Jerry Foxhoven was no longer director of the state Department of Human Services and that Gerd Clabaugh would do double duty as temporary DHS head and director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The governor has declined to say whether disciplinary action or complaints played a role in her decision to ask for Foxhoven’s resignation and to start a national search for his replacement, and he has declined requests for comment.

“There are a lot of factors that went into that decision. I’m not going to get into them,” Reynolds told reporters soon after the June 17 announcement.

Reynolds’ staff has indicated there are no other records or documents pertaining to Foxhoven’s departure.

“I’ve said all I’m going to say on that. I’m done,” Reynolds said in the Friday interview. “I absolutely feel that I’ve complied with the law, and if you want to further that discussion with our legal counsel, you can do that. Absolutely, we made sure that we were doing it appropriately, and we believe that we have.”

• Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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