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Political staffers explore options as campaigns warm up

What do political staffers do when they near the end of the term of the elected official for whom they work?

“Some staffers already have plans to return to the private sector and some look for other careers in state government,” said John Arledge, who worked for Gov. Kirk Fordice from December 1991 to December 1995. “Governor Fordice always encouraged his staff to get back into the private sector. He wasn`t a big fan of people making careers out of politics.”

Political staffers handle the timing of their departure in various ways, said Arledge. “I`ve heard stories of some politicians who encourage their staff to look for other opportunities as the term winds down, while others expect their staff to stay – out of loyalty – until the very end,” he said.

When Arledge left the Fordice administration, he worked as a consultant for two years before going to work for one of his clients, Community Bank, where he is senior vice president of marketing.

“A lot of times, you start seeing staff turnover midway through the second term at the federal level,” he said. “Even before the (Monica) Lewinsky scandal broke, several prominent staffers started making moves off President Clinton`s staff. Now it`s a mass exodus.”

Andrew Taggert, former chief of staff for Governor Kirk Fordice and formerly associated with Corporate Relations Management, was the catalyst for the change of venue of several attorneys at Crosthwait Terney to join Butler Snow O`Mara Stevens and Cannada law firm. Taggert was previously associated with Butler Snow before joining the governor`s staff.

Chris Webster was Fordice`s chief legal counsel and worked on the transition team during the first term. After working as executive director of the state`s Republican Party for two years, Webster was a candidate for Secretary of State in 1995.

“I got 45% of the vote in the Republican primaries in that election and when it was over, I really had to decide what I wanted to do next,” Webster said.

Webster started a mortgage company, First Mississippi Capital Corp, and returned to practicing law. “Now, I probably spend 90% of my time in the mortgage area as a mortgage broker.”

“People say once you`ve been involved in politics, it`s always in your blood and you`re always interested in it,” Webster said. “It`s fun to be involved in politics in a different way rather than a livelihood as a spectator/participant. I`m enjoying the behind-the-scenes role very much.”

Donna Simmons, a Jackson-based political consultant, said she does not anticipate much of a turnover in the next few years.

“Most elected officials (at the state level) are in line to run for re-election or run for something else,” Simmons said.


About Lynne W. Jeter

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