Gov. Matt Bevin chose Regina Stivers, the wife of Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, to lead the state’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Tuesday after announcing that current tourism Secretary Don Parkinson will take the top spot at the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.
Bevin said Parkinson and Regina Stivers will serve on an interim basis.
The moves come after Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner announced Monday that he was stepping down immediately as a member of Bevin’s cabinet to accept an appointment by Bevin to the Kentucky Board of Education.
Parkinson, a Louisville businessman, has led the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet since December 2015. Regina Stivers has been deputy secretary of the tourism cabinet since January 2016.
Parkinson’s professional background is in marketing and advertising, including as senior vice president of KFC and YUM! Brands.
The secretary of the Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet oversees 17 agencies, including the Kentucky State Parks System, Fish & Wildlife, the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Arts Council.
Regina Stivers was previously the Central Kentucky field director for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and held a similar position in Eastern Kentucky for former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning from 2008 to 2010. In addition, she was director of boards and commissions for former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
Heiner, at his request, received no pay for being education and workforce development secretary. Secretaries in Bevin’s cabinet make $137,000 a year. As a deputy secretary, Stivers was making $118,000.
In June, Attorney General Andy Beshear questioned whether Regina Stivers’ initial appointment by Bevin was a conflict of interest for Robert Stivers after the Senate president criticized Beshear’s handling of lawsuits against drug manufacturers.
“I guess a lot changes when your income is dependent on an at-will job of your spouse for the governor,” Beshear said at the time.
The comment prompted many Kentucky Republicans to call Beshear sexist and defend Regina Stivers’ qualifications.
Crystal Staley, deputy communications director for Beshear, responded by saying the attorney general was simply questioning whether Stivers has a conflict of interest because “the majority of his family’s income appears to be derived from a job the governor can terminate at any moment.”
Robert Stivers has said he was not involved in his wife’s hiring by Bevin and that he always excuses himself from participating in discussions about the cabinet’s budget.