FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear must decide whether to pick a new economic development secretary for the state before he leaves office Dec. 8 or leave that decision to the next governor.
A committee searching for a new secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development submitted to Beshear on Monday the names of three finalists to replace Larry Hayes of Louisville. Hayes announced his retirement May 20 but said he would stay to help with the transition to a new leader.
Lexington banker Luther Deaton Jr., who led the five-member search committee, did not identify the three finalists. The panel met for almost five hours behind closed doors Monday in the Old Capitol Annex.
Deaton referred questions about the finalists to the governor's office, which had no immediate response.
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Under state law, the governor chooses the secretary from the list of three names submitted by the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership's executive committee. The partnership is the governing body of the state Economic Development Cabinet and is chaired by Beshear.
The partnership's executive committee formed a search committee on May 29 and hired a search firm, which initially came up with five candidates. The panel pared the list to three for the governor's consideration.
The governor can also reject the first list of names and direct the board to submit a list of three additional names, from which he shall appoint the secretary.
Once appointed, the secretary serves at the pleasure of the board.
Deaton said Beshear has no deadline to pick a secretary. If Beshear does not do so before leaving office, the responsibility would fall to the next governor.
If that occurs, the new governor could choose someone from the first list of three names or direct the board to go back to the drawing board and come up with three new names.
Both major candidates for governor — Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Matt Bevin — have touted jobs creation as a major emphasis of their campaigns.
Neither campaign responded Monday when asked if Beshear should let the next governor pick the next economic development secretary.
Deaton said he expects Beshear will talk to the major gubernatorial candidates before announcing a new economic development secretary.
He said the search committee had "no input" from Beshear or Hayes on which three names it would submit to the governor.
Deaton also said the committee did not consult with any gubernatorial candidate.
"I've served under four governors and not one has ever tried to interfere with our search committees," Deaton said.
"We did our job," he said. "We came up with what we think are three qualified people and now the process goes to the governor's office."
Hayes formerly worked in the Louisville mayoral administration of Jerry Abramson and was secretary of the cabinet during Gov. Martha Layne Collins' administration.
Under Hayes' administration, Kentucky won the Governor's Cup award from Site Selection magazine for the most per-capita economic development in the country in 2014.
The Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board was established in 1992. It is made up of 13 public and private sector members, allowing the cabinet to remain bipartisan and focused on implementing long-term economic development strategies.