Gov.-elect Wolf selects McGinty, former environmental protection secretary, as chief of staff

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf announced Monday a former state environmental protection secretary will serve as his chief of staff after he takes office in January.

Wolf gave the key job in his upcoming administration to Katie McGinty, who led Campaign for a Fresh Start, a political action committee that actively supported him and other Democrats in the recent election. Before that, she ran for governor in the spring Democratic primary that Wolf won but finished fourth.

The position puts McGinty in a position to have considerable sway over Wolf's day-to-day decision making. She said more transition-related announcements were expected this week.

"I think Tom's approach is the approach I like — inclusive, open, encouraging the best ideas to come forward and building teamwork around the challenges and opportunities the commonwealth faces," McGinty said in a phone interview.

Wolf said she brings broad experience both within and outside of government and a background of working "with diverse interests to achieve meaningful change in difficult environments."

She will work on Wolf's transition team until Jan. 20, when Wolf is scheduled to be sworn in as Pennsylvania's 47th governor.

McGinty said an early challenge will be a structural deficit in the state budget, adding she hoped the state's elected leaders "will come to the table with the appropriate seriousness of purpose."

"I think what we need to do first is get the facts, and Tom has highlighted the warning signs of very significant fiscal and budget issues," she said.

McGinty, 51, headed the Department of Environmental Protection under former Gov. Ed Rendell from 2003 to 2008. She also worked for Al Gore when he served in the U.S. Senate and in the White House under President Bill Clinton, as deputy assistant and then chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. She went on to work on Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

As Pennsylvania's environmental protection secretary, she fought to rein in mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, impose tougher vehicle emission rules, strengthen safety measures in coal mines, secure taxpayer funding to underwrite clean energy projects and engage the private sector in cleaning up waste coal and acid mine drainage poisoning Pennsylvania's rivers.

She left the office as the energy industry was rushing to lock up mineral rights across much of Pennsylvania to capitalize on the barely explored Marcellus Shale natural gas formation.

Before she ran for governor, she worked on clean energy projects for a West Chester-based environmental engineering company, where she was a senior vice president, and served on various corporate boards.

A native of Philadelphia, McGinty lives in the suburb of Wayne with her husband, Karl, and their three daughters, twins in 9th grade and an 8th-grader. She said she does not plan to relocate to Harrisburg.

McGinty received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Saint Joseph's University and a law degree from Columbia University.

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