LINCOLN, Nebraska — As he prepared to make the transition to the Nebraska governor's office in January, Pete Ricketts met with Gov. Dave Heineman Thursday at the Capitol to talk about the state budget process, personnel issues and other matters related to the office's day-to-day operations.
Besides visiting with the outgoing governor, Ricketts said he has called newly elected senators to congratulate them after Tuesday's election. Ricketts said he expected a smooth transition from Heineman, a fellow Republican who is leaving office after a decade.
"We've got a lot of work to do, no doubt," Ricketts said while standing next to Heineman for a media photo shoot in the governor's office.
Ricketts also announced he will appoint Matt Miltenberger, his campaign manager, as his gubernatorial chief of staff. His deputy campaign manager, Taylor Gage, will serve as the transition team's communications director.
Ricketts said he planned to listen to Heineman on what the state's priorities should be. Heineman, the state's longest-serving governor, said he's confident that Ricketts will hit the ground running.
"Pete's a good friend, and I believe he'll be an outstanding governor for this state," Heineman said. "He's got the background of business, in terms of job creation — something that I've really focused on. He's going to take it to the next level."
The transition marks the first major changing-of-the-guard in 16 years. Heineman was appointed lieutenant governor under then-Gov. Mike Johanns in 2001. He moved from that position to the governor's office in January 2005, after Johanns left to become U.S. Agriculture Secretary under President George W. Bush.
Heineman and Ricketts said they haven't yet discussed who will appoint a senator to replace Republican Charlie Janssen, of Fremont. Janssen was elected state auditor on Tuesday and will have to resign from his legislative seat. Janssen's legislative term expires in 2017.
Ricketts defeated Democrat Chuck Hassebrook, a former University of Nebraska regent from Lyons, in Tuesday's election. He will be sworn in as Nebraska's 40th governor on Jan. 8.
Miltenberger previously worked for the Nebraska Ethanol Board, as executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party and as a lobbyist for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. He will replace Larry Bare, who served as Nebraska's gubernatorial chief of staff since 1999.
Before he worked in Ricketts' campaign, Gage served as political director for Republican U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer's 2012 campaign. Heineman's communications director, Jen Rae Wang, has served the governor since 2007.
The transition team also unveiled a new website on Thursday, http://governorelect.nebraska.gov , for anyone who is seeking an appointment in the new administration.
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