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NMU Grad Named New Michigan State Police Director

The new director of the Michigan State Police is a graduate of Northern Michigan University.

Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer tapped Captain Joe Gasper for the role as part of a slew of department heads for her administration.

The Grand Rapids native joined the Michigan State Police in 1998.

He currently serves as emergency manager for the department and has served in a variety of local, state and national leadership roles in his career.

Capt. Gasper obtained a bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University.

Whitmer praised Gasper for his extensive experience and said he brings a fresh perspective to this critical position.

She said his dedicated to protecting our citizens and will be instrumental in ushering in a new generation of leadership at the Michigan State Police.

Here is the full press release from Whitmer’s transition team:

Whitmer Names Cabinet Members Focused on Infrastructure, Environment, Public Safety and Consumer Protections

LANSING, Mich. – Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer today announced key department directors, including heads of the Michigan Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, Michigan State Police, Department of Corrections, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Insurance and Financial Services and the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman.

“I am proud to announce a team of immensely talented and representative leaders who are committed to moving our state forward for all Michigan residents,” said Governor-elect Whitmer. “These individuals are experts in their fields and will bring fresh and diverse perspectives to the Cabinet as we work together to address critical issues and improve lives throughout the state.”


Paul Ajegba will serve as director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. An employee of MDOT for 28 years, Ajegba began his career in the department’s Engineering Development Program before rising through the ranks to serve as Metro Region engineer. In 2017, Ajegba was named the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials’ Public Agency Executive of the Year. Ajegba, an Ann Arbor resident, earned his bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas and his master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

“Michigan residents have made loud and clear their concern over the state’s crumbling infrastructure, and no one understands those issues better than Paul,” said Governor-elect Whitmer. “His technical expertise and years of experience mean that we can get to work fixing the roads, and fixing them right.”

The Department of Environmental Quality will be led by Liesl Eichler Clark, co-founder and partner of 5 Lakes Energy, a policy consulting firm that serves businesses, policymakers and other stakeholders seeking to advance the transition to a clean energy economy. Clark, a Howell resident, has also served as president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council and as deputy director for energy programs at the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, & Economic Growth. Clark holds a master’s degree from Michigan State University and a bachelor’s degree from MSU’s James Madison College.

“Liesl will be instrumental in finding real and lasting solutions to protecting our water resources here in the state,” Whitmer said. “She brings an acute understanding of the critical intersection between environmental safety and business innovation, which will be essential in moving Michigan’s environmental stewardship forward.”

Daniel Eichinger will serve as director of the Department of Natural Resources. Eichinger is currently executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, where he helped re-establish MUCC as a driving force for conserving Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage. Eichinger previously served in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. A resident of Lake Isabella, Eichinger earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s of science in fisheries and wildlife from Michigan State University. He also obtained a master’s of public administration from Central Michigan University.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will be headed by Gary McDowell, a farmer and former State Representative who owns and operates McDowell Brothers Farm and McDowell Hay, Inc., along with his brothers Bob and Ron. A lifelong resident of Rudyard, Michigan, McDowell served for 22 years on the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners and for six years as a State Representative for the 107th District. McDowell attended Lake Superior State University.

“A lifelong farmer and public servant, Gary has a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing our state’s agricultural industry as well as critical insights on rural development opportunities throughout Michigan,” Whitmer said.

Captain Joe Gasper, who first joined the Michigan State Police in 1998, will serve as director of the Michigan State Police. Capt. Gasper, a Grand Rapids resident, currently serves as emergency manager for the MSP and has served in a variety of local, state and national leadership roles in his career. Capt. Gasper obtained a bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University.

“Captain Gasper brings both extensive experience and a fresh perspective to this critical position. He is dedicated to protecting our citizens and will be instrumental in ushering in a new generation of leadership at the Michigan State Police,” Whitmer said.

Heidi Washington will continue to serve in her current role as director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Under Washington’s leadership, MDOC has seen a significant decrease in its prison population and has implemented a skilled trades training program to help prisoners complete career and technical education and be better prepared to find jobs upon release. Washington lives in East Lansing and holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, as well as a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

“Heidi has taken innovative steps toward breaking the cycle of incarceration here in our state,” added Whitmer. “Having implemented a first-of-its-kind program to help prisoners find jobs upon release here in Michigan and extensive experience in the department, Heidi has a track record that will allow us to continue to implement needed reforms to our corrections system.”

Brigadier General Paul Rogers, most recently the Deputy Commander of the 46th Military Police Command, will lead the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. BG Rogers served as the 46th Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and the Chief of Staff prior to becoming the Deputy Commander. Having deployed to Iraq in 2005 as the Battalion Commander of the 507th Engineer Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, BG Rogers commanded a total of 823 soldiers, 139 marines and 114 airmen in combat operations during the deployment.

“Brigadier General Rogers is a skilled and trusted service member, who has served our nation proudly,” said Whitmer. “He will command and direct the Michigan Army and Air National Guard with the prowess and integrity the role demands.”

Orlene Hawks will lead the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.  Hawks currently serves as director of the Office of Children’s Ombudsman, where she has worked for the last five years to ensure greater accountability and transparency in Michigan’s child welfare system. Before joining the OCO, Hawks managed the Quality and Program Services section in the Michigan Department of Community Health (now MDHHS). Hawks lives in Okemos and obtained her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University.

The Department of Insurance and Financial Services will be headed by Anita Fox, who brings more than 30 years of experience in the legal field to the role, having specialized in litigating a wide range of business and insurance issues. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College, Fox graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. She also holds a State of Michigan Secondary Teaching Certificate. Fox resides in Okemos, Michigan.

Office of the Children’s Ombudsman will be led by long-time criminal prosecutor and child advocate Lisa McCormick. McCormick served a 21-year tenure at the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, where she ultimately became chief assistant prosecutor. McCormick also founded Small Talk Children’s Advocacy Center with the belief that every child deserves a safe place for healing. McCormick, a Grand Ledge resident, obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and graduated Juris Doctorate, Cum Laude, from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

“Increased transparency in state government and protection of Michigan residents will be paramount to my administration, and the leadership in LARA, DIFS and the Children’s Ombudsman office will bring fairness, efficiency and transparency to consumer protection services here in Michigan,” said Whitmer.

For additional information and updates, visit www.michigantransition.org.

Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer Announces Key Cabinet Members, Executive Office Leadership
LANSING, Mich. – Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer today announced key members of her cabinet, including state treasurer, budget director and the director of the Office of the State Employer, along with Executive Office leadership.

“We have assembled a highly-skilled and deeply experienced team ready to get to work moving Michigan forward, starting January 1,” said Governor-elect Whitmer. “Putting forth a budget reflective of the issues that matter most to Michigan residents will be one of my first and most important charges as Governor. This group brings the expertise that will be necessary to guide that process and a commitment to getting the job done right.”

Rachael Eubanks has been named to serve as state treasurer. Most recently, Eubanks was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to serve on the Michigan Public Service Commission as a utility regulatory commissioner and was unanimously confirmed by the Michigan Senate Energy & Technology Committee. Prior to that role, Eubanks structured more than $25 billion in bond financings for public entities–primarily the state of Michigan, State Building Authority, Michigan Finance Authority and the Michigan Strategic Fund. Eubanks also served as point of contact for credit rating agencies on state credit matters for 10 years. Eubanks obtained her bachelor’s in economics from the University of Michigan.

“Rachael Eubanks has a clear commitment to public service and brings years of critical experience to this role,” Whitmer said. “She is also a fighter for the people of Michigan, leading an $185 million project in Detroit to install street lights throughout the city, improving quality of life for residents and reducing crime. As treasurer, I am confident she will continue to solve problems for the people of our state.”

Former state representative Chris Kolb will serve as budget director. Kolb is currently president of the Michigan Environmental Council and served as co-chair of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, which investigated the city’s drinking water crisis, found state-appointed emergency managers and the DEQ chiefly responsible, and provided recommendations to prevent similar disasters statewide. From 2001 to 2006, Kolb served in the State House of Representatives, spending two terms on the House Appropriations Committee. Kolb obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.

“Chris Kolb has dedicated his career to public service and will bring his expertise from the legislature into the State Budget Office,” Whitmer said. “Chris has done critical work to protect Michigan’s environment and drinking water, a cause that will continue to be at the forefront for the duration of my administration. As budget director, I know Chris will continue to put the people of our state first, while serving as a sensible steward of taxpayer dollars.”

The Office of the State Employer will be headed by Liza Estlund Olson. Estlund Olson most recently served as executive director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 517M. Estlund Olson has also served as deputy director of the Workforce Development Agency, Direct Talent Strategies, and has held positions with the Bureau of Workforce Transformation; the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth; the Unemployment Insurance Agency; and the City of Lansing. Estlund Olson received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University’s James Madison College, and is also a member of the Public Division Board for SEIU.

“Serving on the frontline of the important work that lies ahead, our state’s employees need leaders in Lansing who have their backs,” Whitmer said. “As director of the Office of the State Employer, Liza will make sure state employees have the support they need to get the job done and get it done right. There is no one better prepared for the role.”

Governor-elect Whitmer also named key leadership positions in her Executive Office today, including:
  • Chief of Staff – JoAnne Huls, chief of staff at Sterling Group.
  • Chief Strategist – Mark A. Burton, CEO of Burton Strategies, Inc. and chief of staff to then-Senate Democratic Leader Whitmer.
  • Chief Legal Counsel – Mark Totten, Associate professor at MSU College of Law and former prosecutor and attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Chief Compliance Officer – Corina Peña Andorfer, attorney and former chief compliance officer at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority..
  • Cabinet Secretary – Jay B. Rising, former state treasurer and retired executive vice president/chief financial officer of Detroit Medical Center.
  • Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II – Shaquila Myers, legislative director for Senate Minority Leader Ananich.
  • Communications Director – Zack Pohl, Whitmer for Governor communications director and former communications director at Michigan AFL-CIO.
  • Public Affairs Director – Jen Flood, government policy advisor at Dykema.
  • Community Affairs Director – Melanie Brown, director of public affairs and community engagement at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
“From day one, I’ve made it clear I intend to surround myself with individuals who are reflective of our state and encompass the broad range of skills needed to chart the path forward,” Whitmer said. “The team we have assembled to lead the Executive Office is a direct reflection of that commitment, and I am thrilled to hit the ground running with them on January 1.”

For additional information and updates, visit www.michigantransition.org.

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