Six years after ending her 14-year run of service in state government, Angele Davis is considering a run to fill John Kennedy’s unexpired term as treasurer.
Davis served as deputy commissioner of administration for Gov. Mike Foster, was secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism under Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, and commissioner of administration during the first two years of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tenure.
Since leaving state government in 2010, Davis has headed the Davis Kelley Group, a business consultancy in Baton Rouge, where she’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and regional NGOs, including some pro bono work the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce. She is married to 19th Judicial District Court Judge Tim Kelley. They are the parents of a 6-year old boy, and Davis coaches her son’s basketball team. He is the only boy on the team.
Davis got her undergraduate degree from Springhill College in Mobile, Ala., and her MBA from LSU.
Davis, who says she has “a passion for public service,” credits Foster with getting her into it.
“He was my mentor,” Davis says of Foster. “He told me I could be a great leader. He said that I if I did the right things for the right reasons, he would always support me.”
A tough decision arose when a high-powered financial firm tried to pressure the Foster administration into privatizing the management of the Office of Group Benefits, the organization responsible for handling health insurance programs for state employees. Foster asked Davis to run the numbers on the proposal from the company.
“When I did that, I found that the proposal would have cost the state millions of dollars, and I reported that to the governor and the Legislature,” Davis recalls. “The company put up billboards, ran ads, pressured legislators through lobbyists, expecting us to fold. But we did the thing that was in the best interest of the state” in recommending against the proposed takeover.
“We achieved consensus,” Davis says. “We had the facts on our side.”
Davis says that working for Foster and Landrieu provided her with experience of working with Republicans and Democrats, a skill she says a treasurer needs to have.
“I enjoyed working with legislators to find solutions to the challenges the state has faced,” Davis says. She says her strengths are her analytical and critical thinking skills as well as the broad research she does on issues.
Asked if Jindal’s record of fiscal problems would be an impediment to her candidacy, Davis says pointedly, “I can’t be held responsible for what happened after I left state government.”
Davis says she is proud of the work she did in her two years as Jindal’s commissioner of administration, including working with credit rating companies to protect the state’s bond rating in the wake of the 2008 hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
She also points with pride to the work of the Commission on Streamlining Government, which was created by the Legislature in 2009 and issued its 238 recommendations to operate government more efficiently on Jan. 4, 2010.
Davis received considerable attention in conservative circles for the work of the commission, including being named one of the Reason Foundation’s 2009 Innovators In Action in large part because of her “central role in the current efforts to streamline the state bureaucracy.”
On the specific topic of the commission’s contribution to one of the great fiscal calamities of the Jindal years — the three-year collapse of the state’s severance tax audit program — Davis, who served as a member of the commission, tries to deflect the question.
“I am sorry. I do not know what happened after I left,” Davis says in an email. It’s worth noting that Davis left the Jindal administration in August 2010, seven months after the work of the Streamlining Commission was done and after the 2010-2011 state budget was approved. “I do recall that this was being discussed between the departments,” she adds. “Have you checked with Bob Harper?”
Harper, who served as interim Department of Natural Resources secretary in 2010 while Scott Angelle served as interim lieutenant governor, told the Streamlining Commission at its Nov. 23, 2009, meeting that the Jindal administration had already decided that severance tax audit authority was going to move from the Department of Revenue to DNR, noting that budget planning was currently under way. Davis, as commissioner of administration, ran the budget process.
Davis attended that meeting of the Streamlining Commission but did not take part in the discussion of the severance tax audit transfer proposal, which originated in Treasurer Kennedy’s Benchmarking and Efficiencies Advisory Group.
The recommendation adopted by the commission — Recommendation 152 — declares that severance tax audit authority would go from DNR to the Department of Revenue. The commission chair, Sen. Jack Donahue of Mandeville, urged the adoption of the language and suggested letting “the departments work it out.”
In reality, however, the change was going the other way (from the Department of Revenue to DNR). On Dec. 1, 2009, Scott Angelle (who was then still DNR secretary) opened the negotiations on the cooperative endeavor agreement with the Department of Revenue, which would formalize the audit authority transfer to his department.
Internal Division of Administration budget documents from as early as February 2010 — a month after the commission made its recommendations public — show that four auditor positions were being shifted from the Department of Revenue to DNR, despite the language in the Streamlining Commission recommendation.
If Davis becomes a candidate, this part of her Jindal administration legacy will await clarification.