Murphy 10th cabinet member to leave Markell administration

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, left,, seen here with Gov. Jack Markell at a February event, is the latest of the governor’s cabinet secretaries to announce his departure. (Delaware State News file photo by Dave Chambers)

Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, left,, seen here with Gov. Jack Markell at a February event, is the latest of the governor’s cabinet secretaries to announce his departure. (Delaware State News file photo by Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Last Friday’s announcement that education Secretary Mark Murphy plans to resign brings the number of cabinet secretaries who have left Gov. Jack Markell’s administration to 10.

The governor’s cabinet consists of 16 agencies, ranging from the Department of Agriculture to the Delaware National Guard.

In all, 25 individuals have served in Gov. Markell’s cabinet, with former New Castle County Vo-Tech School District Superintendent Steven Godowsky set to be the 26th.

A total of 28 men and women served in the cabinet of Gov. Markell’s predecessor, Ruth Ann Minner, who held office from 2001 to 2009, although 18 main state agencies existed until 2005.

MARKELL CABINET SECRETARIES Once the new secretary of the Department of Education is confirmed by the Senate, likely in October, 26 cabinet heads will have served under Gov. Jack Markell. Below is a listing of each agency and its chief, as well as when he or she took office. Department of Agriculture ­— Secretary Ed Kee (2009) Department of Correction — Commissioner Robert Coupe (2013) Delaware Economic Development Office — Director Bernice Whaley (2015) Department of Education — Mark Murphy (2012)* Department of Finance­ ­– Tom Cook (2009) Department of Health and Social Services — Rita Landgraf (2009) State Housing Authority — Anas Ben Addi (2009) Department of Labor — John McMahon (2009) Office of Management and Budget — Ann Visalli (2009) National Guard  — Frank Vavala (1999) Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control  — David Small (2014) Department of Safety and Homeland and Security — Lewis Schiliro (2009) Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families — Jennifer Ranji (2013) Department of State — Jeffrey Bullock (2009) Department of Technology and Information — James Collins (2014) Department of Transportation — Jennifer Cohan (2015) * — Will step down soon

MARKELL CABINET SECRETARIES
Once the new secretary of the Department of Education is confirmed by the Senate, likely in October, 26 cabinet heads will have served under Gov. Jack Markell. Below is a listing of each agency and its chief, as well as when he or she took office.
Department of Agriculture ­— Secretary Ed Kee (2009)
Department of Correction — Commissioner Robert Coupe (2013)
Delaware Economic Development Office — Director Bernice Whaley (2015)
Department of Education — Mark Murphy (2012)*
Department of Finance­ ­– Tom Cook (2009)
Department of Health and Social Services — Rita Landgraf (2009)
State Housing Authority — Anas Ben Addi (2009)
Department of Labor — John McMahon (2009)
Office of Management and Budget — Ann Visalli (2009)
National Guard — Frank Vavala (1999)
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control — David Small (2014)
Department of Safety and Homeland and Security — Lewis Schiliro (2009)
Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families — Jennifer Ranji (2013)
Department of State — Jeffrey Bullock (2009)
Department of Technology and Information — James Collins (2014)
Department of Transportation — Jennifer Cohan (2015)
* — Will step down soon

When Gov. Markell took office in January 2009, he appointed the various members, some of whom were holdovers from the previous administration.

Half of the agencies have seen changes, with the Department of Transportation being hit the hardest. DelDOT now has its third secretary.

When Mr. Murphy is replaced, the Education Department also will be under the administration of its third chief.

Seven agencies still have the original overseer selected by the governor in 2009, while an eighth, the National Guard, has been led by the same individual since 1999.

Gov. Markell’s choices generally have carried with them little controversy.

Officials selected for cabinet posts have prior government experience, generally in the field they will be working in, and most have been employed in Delaware.

Gov. Markell has retained slightly fewer department heads from the previous administration than Gov. Minner did.

He kept three officials in the positions they held for Gov. Minner, whereas she retained four individuals from Gov. Tom Carper’s administration.

All three politicians are Democrats.

An appointee’s background can range from providing legal aid and running the day-to-day operations for a previous governor to heading a division of the department they took over.

Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock, for instance, was Gov. Tom Carper’s chief of staff in the 1990s, while DelDOT head Jennifer Cohan was the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles director before being named to her current position.

Some, such as Office of Management and Budget Director Ann Visalli, worked directly with Gov. Markell before he was elected in 2008.

Upon taking office, the governor, who previously had served as the elected state treasurer, brought Ms. Visalli, his deputy treasurer, with him. Jennifer Ranji, who served as the governor’s education policy adviser for four years, was selected to lead the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families in 2013.

Some hires do come from outside, without experience in Delaware government. Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Lewis Schiliro previously had worked at the FBI, the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and in the private sector before he was tapped for his current post in January 2009.

Former DelDOT head Shailen Bhatt had worked for the Federal Highway Administration. In that case, the governor considered outside candidates due to the many obstacles facing the Transportation Department.
Department chiefs have left for several reasons.

The first DelDOT boss, Carolann Wicks, announced in February 2011 she would step down after scrutiny over various department activities, including alleged improper land deals.

Several lawmakers said at the time Ms. Wicks simply had been given a challenging job in cleaning up a mess started under the prior administration.

In January 2013, the governor nominated two of his top surrogates for judgeships. Former Correction Department Commissioner Carl Danberg was selected for the Court of Common Pleas, while DSCYTF Secretary Vivian Medinilla was named to the Superior Court.

This year, Mr. Bhatt left to lead Colorado’s central transportation agency, while Delaware Economic Development Office Director Alan Levin stepped down to return to the private sector.

Although Mr. Murphy opted to leave “to pursue other opportunities,” according to the governor’s office, he has faced a growing storm from Delawareans dissatisfied with his tenure.

The secretary has been the target of criticism particularly this year, as some parents, educators and lawmakers have blasted the Department of Education for what they see as too many standardized tests and an overly powerful centralized education bureaucracy.

His predecessor, Lillian Lowery, moved to the Maryland Department of Education in 2012.

Former Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara left the agency last year to head the National Wildlife Federation.

The chief information officer of the Department of Information and Technology, Jim Sills, also departed his post in 2014, choosing to enter the private sector.

Gary Pfeiffer, who served as secretary of finance, was the first cabinet head to leave under Gov. Markell. He did so of his accord, after proposing the governor merge the department with other agencies to save money.

As part of the preliminary process, Mr. Pfeiffer stepped down, although ultimately the Finance Department was retained.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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