Skubick: The world of being chief of staff to a sitting governor

It's a very exclusive club and it takes a special breed of cat to want a membership in it. That's because knowing the job description, most folks in their right mind would say "thanks but no thanks."

Which brings us to Don Gordon, George Weeks, Bill Hettiger, Tom Lewand, Rick Cole, Sharon Rothwell, Dan Pero, Dan Kirchbaum, Rick Weiner and Dennis Muchmore who all joined the club. Welcome to the world of being a chief of staff to a sitting governor in Michigan.

It's a thankless job but if every modern-day governor was candid about the post, he or she would concede a governor couldn't do their job without this second in command working behind the scenes to advance the governor's agenda.

The PEW research folks sort of nailed the chief's job this way: Brilliant workaholics who are unfailingly loyal to their bosses … (they are) the hidden powers in state capitols: the governor's enforcer, shadow and alter ego.

So if this is such a hot shot job, why would anyone want to leave it?

B.O. is one reason.

No, not body odor; B.O. as in burn out.

A reporter bumped into Dennis Muchmore the other day as he carried five bags of goodies he purchased at the farmer's market on the capitol lawn. (It was about the only productive event at the capitol this summer. One farmer sold 5,000 ears of corn.)

Gov. Rick Sndyer's Chief of Staff has been with the boss from the get go. Picked for his massive amount of insider knowledge about the capitol to compliment the governor's complete lack of same, it was heraled in town as a great pick.

The chit chat began with his analysis of where the road fix package was headed. He thought perhaps this fall something might be done, but he confessed on this one, he didn't know any more than the next guy.

And then out of the blue this seemingly off-the-wall inquiry: Could you hang it up next year?

"I might," he candidly revealed for the first time.  

The reporter, knowing there was a story here, pressed for a more definitive time line.

"I'll tell you at Christmas time," he pledged.

Christmas time came early this year in the dead of summer.

"Gov. Rick Snyder announces chief of staff transition," the headline on the news release read on August 11.

Mr. Muchmore will remain as a special advisor to the governor but in January somebody else will join the club, another non-household name, Jarrod Agen.

"I'm 68 years old and you get to the point where you gotta look out there and you gotta say, "Where are the young people to do this?"

And then the most telling response of all when he was asked if his spouse was pushing him to hang it up?

"No" as he added, "I'm more tired than she thinks I am," he smiled.

Being the power behind the throne means you never really put the job aside even when you are supposedly off duty.

It's the proverbial meat grinder but the folks that do this are driven by the desire to serve, a close attachment to the governor (that loyality thing) and no need to feed an ego that demands public attention. In reality the really good chiefs ply their wares and leave all the "glory" to the boss but they are also there to take the heat if things get ugly so as to shield the boss from that.

One little hic-up. Two influencial Democrats were surprised and concerned that the deputy chief of staff, Beth Clement, whom Mr. Muchmore praised as one of those up and coming young talents, was denied the promotion to the top spot.

That was not discussed in the news release.