Republicans seized a majority of the nation’s governor’s mansions this month, but a Democrat, Gov. Chris Gregoire, will lead governors’ lobbying group for the next few months.
The bipartisan National Governors Association has elected Gregoire as its new chairwoman to finish the term of Democratic West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Gregoire will serve until next July, when Nebraska Republican Gov. Dave Heineman is expected to take over. The position alternates between Democrats and Republicans.
Here’s the news release from the NGA:
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire Elected Chair of National Governors Association
Gov. Gregoire’s Dedication to Accessible, Affordable Higher Education Continues with NGA Chair’s Initiative, Complete to Compete
WASHINGTON–The National Governors Association (NGA) today announced that Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has been selected by her peers to take on the role of NGA Chair. Gov. Gregoire also announced that she will continue the 2010-2011 NGA Chair’s Initiative, Complete to Compete, which focuses on increasing the number of students in the United States who complete college degrees and certificates and improving the productivity of the country’s higher education institutions.
“I’m honored to become the chair of NGA, and I look forward to continuing to work with such a diverse and talented group of governors from around the country. I’m also excited to lead the Complete to Compete Initiative as we work to improve higher education completion and productivity,” said Gov. Gregoire.
Gov. Gregoire’s commitment to higher education is evident through her work in Washington State, where a student has many paths to a postsecondary education ranging from 34 community and technical colleges to flagship research institutions. She is keenly interested in reforms to develop and support a highly skilled workforce to ensure the states’ global competitiveness and has championed the Integrated Basic Education Skills Training (I-BEST) program to help adults learn basic skills, such as English, at the same time they learn the skills of a trade or occupation. Gov. Gregoire continues to work to increase access to colleges and universities for working families and has been intimately involved with a higher education funding task force to develop a viable plan for long-range funding of higher education for the state.
Gov. Gregoire takes on this leadership role at a pivotal time in the nation’s history. The largest class of new governors was just elected, and they are coming into office at a very challenging time. Gov. Gregoire noted the new economic reality facing states and the important role governors play. She pointed to economic development and job creation as top priorities. Health reform, education and homeland security and public safety will also be key issues for governors over the coming year.
“The current economy makes this a very challenging time to govern,” Gov. Gregoire continued. “States are still faced with an unprecedented fiscal crisis, and we must make tough choices for our states. Together, we will continue to look at ways to deliver services in a more cost effective and efficient way. That is one of the great things about NGA – we come together on a bipartisan basis to develop solutions that improve state government and strengthen the state-federal partnership.”
“I congratulate Gov. Gregoire on her election as NGA Chair, and I look forward to working with her,” said NGA Vice Chair Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. “As governors, we continue to address issues pursuing long-term solutions that reduce costs and make state governments more efficient. It will take extraordinary leadership from governors around the country to take the necessary and difficult steps to create a smaller, leaner government.”
NGA is the only bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors. It promotes visionary state leadership, shares best practices and speaks with a unified voice on public policy. Gov. Gregoire has experience leading a bipartisan organization; in 1999-2000, she served as president of the National Association of Attorneys General. Gov. Gregoire also served as vice chair of the NGA Education, Early Childhood & Workforce Committee from 2006-2007 and chaired the committee from 2007-2008. She has been a member of the NGA Executive Committee since 2009.
Gov. Gregoire was named NGA Chair after a vote by the NGA executive committee. She becomes the second woman to chair the association. She replaces West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who was elected to the United States Senate. Gov. Manchin announced his resignation as NGA Chair earlier this week. Gov. Gregoire’s term as chair will continue through the NGA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City in July 2011.