Governor’s department head selections heard by Appointments Committee

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Gubernatorial Appointments Committee heard from five of Gov. Eric Greitens’ cabinet appointments in a Wednesday morning hearing. Each of the nominees outlined their plans for their respective governmental bodies, and some received more scrutiny than others.

Anne Precythe, Greitens’ pick to head the Department of Corrections, touted her work as a director at the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, but some of the most pressing questions came in regards to her knowledge and plans to address sexual and racial harassment scandals that have plagued the department the past few months. Sens. Jamilah Nasheed and Gina Walsh also raised concerns about reprisals by correctional officers against prisoners who spoke out about mistreatment and abuse within the state’s jails and prisons.

Since she was named in mid-December, Precythe said she has reviewed complaints about sexual harassment, workplace harassment, retaliation from different facilities and visited the Algoa Correctional Center to speak with staff.

“I come from a state where we enforce a zero tolerance policy, whether we’re talking about dealing with our offender population or our staff,” she said. “I’m looking to bring a professional attitude to what we do.”

Acting Director of the Department of Natural Resources Carol Comer told Sen. Brian Munzlinger she would seek to work with businesses.

“We all want clean air, clean water… but there are sensible ways to get there. Often industry has good ideas of how to get there,” she said. “I view us as partners. We need to communicate better and work together.”

Nasheed asked if working together would include a role for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, but Comer said they would serve more of a supplemental role as Missouri should be primarily responsible for its own affairs.

Chris Chinn, the prospective director of the Department of Agriculture, laid out a three-point plan for the state’s agricultural industry, which primarily relied on bridging the urban-rural divide in the state. Chinn said she would advocate for rural broadband access, encourage urban farming, and deliver a positive message of farming to the state’s cities and suburbs.

Sarah Steelman, the acting commissioner of the Office of Administration, and Charles Andrew Juden, Greitens’ appointed director of the Department of Public Safety, received probably the least amount of scrutiny. The former said she would focus on fulfilling the legislature’s Capitol improvement wishes while also focusing on awarding construction and refurbishment contracts to Missouri businesses.

Juden was credited for his longtime service as a law enforcement officer.

Sen. Kiki Curls asked that both of those appointments pledge a commitment to diversity when it came to female and minority hiring.

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