Politics & Government

Panel recommends secretary of Nevada Senate to head Kentucky's legislative bureaucracy

was secretary of the Nevada Senate for four years, serving as its chief  executive officer and parliamen tarian.
David Byerman was secretary of the Nevada Senate for four years, serving as its chief executive officer and parliamen tarian.

FRANKFORT — David A. Byerman, who was secretary of the Nevada Senate for four years, is a search committee's choice to become director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

The appointment, which comes with an annual salary of $135,000, is pending ratification of the full committee of legislative leaders, which is scheduled to meet Sept. 23. Byerman will turn 44 that day.

He would replace Marcia Seiler, who retired from the nonpartisan job July 31 after holding it for about two years. Her base salary was $137,720 a year.

Seiler was hired in October 2013, when the Kentucky General Assembly was in the throes of a sexual harassment scandal. She replaced Robert Sherman, who resigned after his office had investigated two female staffers' complaints of sexual harassment by a Western Kentucky lawmaker.

In January, legislative leaders released a 9-month-old performance audit of the LRC by the National Conference of State Legislatures which said the bureaucracy that runs Kentucky's $54 million a year legislative branch is dysfunctional and suffers from a lack of communication, seemingly arbitrary salaries and special treatment for employees who are favored by powerful bosses.

Legislative leaders have said the new director would need to address those problems.

In a telephone interview, Byerman said the performance audit and legislatures throughout the country "tell you that the Kentucky legislative staff is top-notch.

"That's a major reason why I want the job," he said. "My goal is to perform as a director to the high quality of their work."

The LRC director oversees about 400 employees who provide research and support for Kentucky lawmakers.

A search committee for Seiler's replacement reviewed more than 30 applications and interviewed several candidates before choosing Byerman. The annual salary range advertised to candidates was $120,000 to $140,000.

LRC spokesman Rob Weber said that Byerman would have an employment contract and that its terms would be public record when it is ratified by the full committee of legislative leaders.

Asked if he will have a one-year contract, Byerman said he was not at liberty to discuss the contract because it remains preliminary.

Commission members and lawmakers authorized the LRC co-chairs — Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo — to negotiate terms of employment with Byerman.

Stivers, R-Manchester, said search committee members were impressed that Byerman had read the performance audit before meeting with them.

"He will inform us after an assessment period as to what he will do" to address issues raised by the audit, Stivers said.

"Mr. Byerman's qualifications, along with the way he conducted himself in his interview, made him the best fit for the position, especially understanding the internal problems that we've had," Stivers said.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Byerman's experience in Nevada "is what separated him from the rest.

"He is the best choice to lead LRC in a new direction, and I look forward to working with him," Stumbo said.

As secretary of the state Senate in Nevada from August 2010 until last November, he was the chamber's chief executive officer and parliamentarian. He was responsible for overseeing 90 employees and managing a $21.5 million two-year budget in the nonpartisan position, according to an LRC news release.

Byerman's base pay in Nevada last year was $108,061.

Before that, Byerman was the U.S. Census Bureau's chief government liaison for Nevada. He served twice in that role, from 1999 to 2000 and 2008 to 2010.

Byerman also has been director of communications for MGM Mirage, a Fortune 500 company; president of Byerman Solutions Group; chief of program development for the Nevada Department of Transportation; executive assistant to Nevada Gov. Bob Miller; and executive director for Philadelphia Clean Cities Inc.

Byerman received the Kevin B. Harrington Award for Excellence in Democracy Education, awarded by the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2014. He also received the Liberty Bell Award last year from the Clark County Law Foundation in Nevada, and the Jean Ford Award for Participatory Democracy from the Nevada secretary of state in 2013.

Byerman earned a bachelor's degree from University of the Redlands in California with a double major in political science and history.

He earned a master's degree in governmental administration from the Fels Center of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

Byerman and his wife, Caroline, and have two children, Amanda, 15, and Will, 13.