FRANKFORT — Gov.-elect Andy Beshear announced his first round of high-level appointments Thursday, selecting four of his close assistants in the attorney general’s office to move with him to the governor’s office next month.
Beshear, the state’s attorney general, said all four appointees — J. Michael Brown, La Tasha Buckner, Travis Mayo and Crystal Staley — had four-year auditions for their next jobs while working in the AG’s office.
“I will tell you that not all of our announcements will be people from the attorney general’s office,” Beshear told reporters. “But those that you know the best, you know their qualifications, you know their work ethic, you know you can rely on them.”
Tapping his closest adviser for a key role, Beshear said that Brown will serve as secretary of the executive cabinet. In his new job, Brown will lead a team of cabinet secretaries in carrying out executive branch initiatives. Brown now serves as deputy attorney general and is leading Beshear’s transition team.
Brown is a former judge and previously served as the state’s justice and public safety secretary.
Buckner will serve as general counsel for the governor’s office, and Mayo will be deputy general counsel, Beshear said. Buckner is a former prosecutor now serving as assistant deputy attorney general for the civil division. Mayo currently heads the AG’s office of civil and environmental law.
Staley will serve as director of communications for the governor’s office. She serves in the same role currently for the attorney general’s office and is heading up communications for the transition.
Beshear said his administration will follow a philosophy that “government is open” to the state’s residents and to the news media.
“We might not always agree on what you’re writing or what we’re talking about, but that doesn’t mean that the next day we don’t need to show up and make sure that government is available and open to the people,” the governor-elect said.
Beshear takes office on Dec. 10.
Among the issues still pending as Kentucky awaits both a new governor and new attorney general are what will become of several ongoing lawsuits filed or appealed by both offices.
Beshear, a Democrat, narrowly defeated Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in this month’s election, capping their bitter rivalry spanning nearly four years. Beshear, wielding his authority as attorney general, had challenged a series of Bevin’s executive actions during their terms. Bevin’s concession came more than a week after the vote — on the same day election officials across Kentucky double-checked vote totals.
Bevin’s administration is involved in several abortion-related cases in federal courts. Meanwhile, pending litigation from the AG’s office includes a lawsuit challenging an investigation of mass teacher protests by Bevin’s administration.
Beshear said Thursday he met with the state’s incoming Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron. Beshear called it a positive get-together and said they’ll have more conversations in coming days.
“It’s important that we start this relationship off on the right foot and with the right tone, which I believe we have,” Beshear told reporters.
Cameron called it a “productive conversation” as he continues his preparations to assume the job as the state’s top prosecutor.
“I am grateful for the meeting and looking forward to getting to work,” Cameron said in a statement.
As for the status of the ongoing lawsuits, Beshear said: “We are reviewing all of them and we’re going to ensure that on Day One we’re ready to take the appropriate action.”