Ten months into his administration, Gov. Matt Bevin has yet to appoint a permanent secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, and now Erik Dunnigan — the individual who has served as acting secretary during this period — has submitted his notice of resignation.
The cabinet’s role is to attract employers to the state and help existing ones expand, but it has not had a permanent secretary since Larry Hayes resigned last November. Despite Hayes announcing his intent to resign six months earlier, former Gov. Steve Beshear chose to leave the appointment of a new secretary to his successor, though Bevin has not yet done so.
Deputy Secretary Dunnigan has served as acting director since last year, but Economic Development spokesman Jack Mazurak tells IL that he submitted a letter to Bevin last week stating he would resign on Nov. 15 “to take advantage of an unexpected and promising opportunity in the private sector.”
As The Herald Leader reported last month, the head of a Mississippi-based firm receiving a $32,000 contract to search for a permanent secretary expressed concern about how the candidates have been handled in the lengthy process, which he called “frustrating and difficult.” At the Sept. 2 meeting of the Economic Development Partnership Board — which oversees the candidates and submits the names of potential candidates — Bevin asked its members to submit three more names, apparently unsatisfied with the three finalists he had previously interviewed.
Joe Lilly, the executive director of the cabinet’s Office of Research and Public Affairs, tells IL that while the board is continuing its search for candidates, the administration’s economic development efforts are proceeding.
“The governor is actively involved in the economic development process on a daily basis,” Lilly said, “and things are currently running smoothly.”
Dunnigan’s current salary is listed as $141,046, while Hayes made over $250,000 a year as secretary. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nonfarm jobs in Kentucky had decreased by over 3,000 from last December to August, though preliminary numbers for September showed the state rebounding with over 11,000 additional jobs.