Jerry's Team: New Top Aides

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Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Governor Jerry Brown started filling out the ranks of top staffers today, deciding to split the job of what used to be chief of staff, tapping all Democrats, and a former statewide official who made headlines for resigning 17 years ago after four felony convictions.

And his wife? A sort of formal role... and no paycheck.

The 21 appointments made today come two days into the governor's term, and join the two staff picks he made before taking office.

True to his word, Brown has eschewed the title of chief of staff for a return to what the job used to be called, 'executive secretary.' And he's splitting the job in half -- also something we've seen before.

Jim Humes, an aide from Brown's days as attorney general, will be Executive Secretary for Administration, Legal Affairs, and Policy; Nancy McFadden, a PG&E executive who was a deputy chief of staff for Governor Gray Davis, will be Executive Secretary for Legislation, Appointments, and Policy.

And yes, McFadden was one of those who split the top job in the past, as mentioned.

Not given the top job, as speculated and mistakenly (?) announced, was First Lady Anne Gust Brown. Instead, she's been officially hired as -- the most perfect job title ever -- "special counsel."

The least surprising choices, based on the fact that everyone knew they were coming, were Brown's decision to keep Mary Nichols as chair of the California Air Resources Board and to tap John Laird as secretary of the California Resources Agency.

Nichols was the real no-brainer of today's announcements. She chaired the ARB under Brown from 1979 to 1983 and was brought back into the position by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 to oversee the implementation of the state's landmark climate change law.

Laird, a Santa Cruz Democrat, served in the Assembly for six years until being termed out in 2008 and was well known as chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee.

Those would all likely be the headline appointments, were it not for the governor's decision to appoint Bill Honig to the State Board of Education. Honig, you may remember, was elected by the voters three times as Superintendent of Public Instruction starting in 1982. But the Democrat was forced to resign in 1993, after being convicted of four felony charges of conflict of interest over state education contracts that tracked back to his wife.

Brown apparently was asked about the Honig appointment this afternoon when stopped by reporters in the Capitol, quoted by Los Angeles Times reporter Shane Goldmacher as saying: "He has the knowledge and skill to be quite valuable and it would be a shame to waste that."

In all, Brown appointed seven new members to the state education board, clearing out Schwarzenegger appointees that had not been confirmed by the Senate and those whose terms were about to expire.

The governor's other appointees include Ronald Yank to lead the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA). As the department that negotiates union contracts, Yank's past as an attorney representing the California Correctional Peace Officers Association may send a sign that a new contract for the guards is on the to do list.

Brown's former DPA boss, Marty Morgenstern, was appointed by the Guv to be secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

Brown also tapped Gil Duran as press secretary, a former spokesman for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and others all mentioned here.

This posting replaces an earlier version, one written before the top jobs were announced. --JM

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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