By Jack Brammer – firstname.lastname@example.org
FRANKFORT — Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson announced Friday that he will leave his state post to become director of Harvard University’s prestigious Institute of Politics, effective Jan. 31.
Shortly afterwards, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear announced in a Capitol news conference that he will appoint Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker to serve the remaining 11 months of Grayson’s term.
Walker, 59, said she will file soon to run in the May Democratic primary election to seek a full four-year term as secretary of state. The office oversees all elections for public offices in Kentucky and keeps records for business incorporations, the governor and the General Assembly.
Beshear, who is seeking re-election, stopped short of endorsing Walker in the primary election but said she is “highly qualified” for the position. Having her name on this fall’s Democratic slate for state constitutional offices could help Beshear gain support among women and Western Kentucky voters.
Walker is president of the Kentucky League of Cities and served on the board a year ago when Sylvia Lovely stepped down as the league’s executive director after a series of Herald-Leader articles detailed large salaries, big expense accounts and conflicts of interest at the organization.
After the newspaper and State Auditor Crit Luallen found problems at the League, Walker was a vociferous defender of Lovely. She also opposed legislative changes that require the League to hold most of its meetings in public because she thought legislative strategy sessions ought to be behind closed doors.
After she was named president of the executive board, she oversaw both the firing of William Hamilton, the league’s insurance director, and the hiring of Jon Steiner, the new executive director.
Walker said she will resign from the League of Cities and will be replaced as mayor of Bowling Green by the city’s mayor pro tem, Joe Denning. She said he will be the first black mayor of the city.
Walker, elected to two consecutive terms as mayor, has worked as a press aide for two members of Congress and the Los Angeles City Council. Prior to entering politics, she was public affairs director at KCAL-TV in Los Angeles.
Her husband, C. Dorian Walker, and she operate Peridot Pictures, which makes high quality motion pictures and television programming both nationally and internationally.
Grayson was first elected as Kentucky’s Secretary of State in 2003 and then re-elected by a wide margin in 2007.
“Trey Grayson is a very accomplished and distinguished public servant with an impressive track record in elective office,” said David T. Ellwood, dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where the institute is located. “His knowledge and experience on the state and national levels will provide the institute with fresh and vigorous leadership at a time when many young people are becoming engaged with politics for the first time.”
Grayson earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard College in 1994, serving as the vice chair of the IOP Student Advisory Committee and is now a member of the IOP’s Senior Advisory Committee.
“I am excited and humbled to be selected as director,” Grayson said in a statement. “The IOP played a pivotal role in developing my interest and approach to politics and public service. I look forward to working with the staff, students and my Kennedy School colleagues to inspire a new generation of undergraduates to pursue public service like I did.”
The Institute of Politics was established in 1966 as a memorial to President Kennedy. Its mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policy makers on a non-partisan basis to inspire them to consider careers in politics and public service. The IOP strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs.
As director, Grayson will be charged with setting the strategic vision and budgetary priorities for the long-term direction and affairs of the Institute.
He will also oversee the myriad activities of the Institute, which include: a resident fellows program for individuals from active political life; student programs such as internships in public service, research awards and special projects; educational seminars for elected officials; conferences designed to bring together academic, political and governmental leaders; and a year-long series of lectures in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.
“Given the current state of politics, the IOP’s unique and unparalleled mission is needed now more than ever,” Grayson said. “Leaving Kentucky is not a decision that I made lightly.”
Grayson will succeed former U.S. Senator John C. Culver, D-Iowa, who has served as interim director since July 2010.
“I cannot thank the citizens of Kentucky enough for the opportunity to serve them. During my tenure, we have accomplished nearly every goal we set forth, and I am confident that the Office of the Secretary of State is more efficient and is a better resource for Kentuckians than ever before,” Grayson said.
The IOP regularly hosts top political and government leaders from across the globe. In the last semester alone, the IOP hosted former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as visiting fellows.
“Trey Grayson is exactly the right person to lead the IOP as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of my father’s Presidency,” said Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation President and IOP Senior Advisory Committee Interim Chair. “He is an inspirational young leader committed to civic engagement, bipartisan cooperation and civil debate. I look forward to working with him to inspire the next generation to answer President Kennedy’s call to service. ”