You think your life is tough?
Maybe you’ve got a holiday to-do list that’s half-a-mile long — and growing. Or maybe you do some teaching like me and have stacks of papers to grade, and you wonder if it’ll ever end.
But when you think it’s all just too much, look westward and consider the plight of Laura Kelly, the incoming governor of Kansas. What she’s up against is enough to shame the rest of us into never again complaining about having too much to do.
On Nov. 6, Kelly ended an almost year-long journey by winning the race for governor. But in the weeks following her win, she has to:
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- Piece together a multi-billion state budget that will be endlessly second-guessed — and make it balance.
- Arrange an inauguration and prepare an inaugural address that, in theory, carries an inspirational flair.
- Deliver her first State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature, a speech that will be carried statewide and closely parsed for clues as to where this new governor wants to lead her state.
- Hire all-important cabinet secretaries and key agency staffers who will turn the wheels of government that she sets in motion.
- Gear up for a four-month legislative session that will test her resolve with the same force the campaign did.
It’s an unholy collection of responsibilities, and it all happens at a too-quick, rat-a-tat-tat pace. Kelly can’t screw any of it up.
The holidays will come and go, and Kelly and her staff may hardly notice. But the calendar is what the calendar is and, in this case, it’s simply unforgiving.
Kelly has some built-in advantages. Helping her navigate are three former governors: Republicans Bill Graves and Mike Hayden and Kathleen Sebelius, the Democrat who helped talk Kelly into running to begin with.
Kelly also has as well-seasoned transition team at her side that includes Duane Goossen, who’s served as state budget director in both Democratic and Republican administrations; Natalie Haag, former chief of staff to Graves; and Joyce Allegrucci, former chief of staff to Sebelius.
One more edge: Jeff Colyer, the outgoing governor who came so close to winning the GOP gubernatorial nomination, and his team are cooperating. That’s more than a little magnanimous.
“We have people here who know how to get things done and know how to reach out,” Kelly told me on the radio. “We’re used to working at that speed. Now we have just two more months of it, and we’ll be good to go.”
The biggest challenge, she said, isn’t the budget. Kelly has been on the Senate budget committee for years and knows the numbers. It’s finding the right people to do all the important jobs of government, she said. Kelly wants the “very best and the brightest and the best-intended folks” for these jobs “so that we can start to drill down and really mend our state.”
There are, she said, “a lot of things that are not working particularly well in the state of Kansas right now. It’ll take an extraordinary set of people who work together to get this back on track.”
Kelly, though, must pull it all together very, very quickly.