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Republicans could secure Wolf cabinet appointments

| Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf mingles with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and North Side native Syreeta Arielle Martin, a media-relations consultant, at A New York event of the Forum for a Better Pennsylvania, during the annual Pennsylvania Society weekend.
Brad Bumsted
Gov.-elect Tom Wolf mingles with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and North Side native Syreeta Arielle Martin, a media-relations consultant, at A New York event of the Forum for a Better Pennsylvania, during the annual Pennsylvania Society weekend.

NEW YORK — Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf said Friday he is considering hiring some Republicans in his cabinet, a move that could bolster his standing with stronger Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

“It's in the back, and front, of my mind,” Wolf told the Tribune-Review in an interview.

One person he won't rule out is Bev Mackereth, the Human Services secretary from his hometown of York. A former Republican House member, Mackereth is on good terms with many lawmakers. GOP Gov. Tom Corbett tapped her to head the agency once called the Department of Public Welfare.

But at a Pennsylvania Society event, Wolf told reporters he intends to bring full Medicaid expansion to Pennsylvania and has discussed that with the Obama administration. Mackereth helped Corbett fashion a hybrid plan to provide health care coverage to 600,000 Pennsylvanians by running federal money through private insurers.

Bringing Republicans into his administration “would be a goodwill gesture” by Wolf, said David Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association.

Wolf defeated Corbett in November, but Republicans expanded their majority in both chambers.

“I think Pennsylvanians voted for divided government,” Wolf said, but they “didn't vote for gridlock.”

Taylor said one name he hears Wolf might keep in his job is Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, considered one of Corbett's most competent appointees.

With more than 23 years of experience in corrections, Wetzel earned unanimous Senate approval in May 2011, five months after Corbett nominated him. The department has a nearly $2 billion budget and 15,000 employees who are responsible for more than 51,000 inmates.

Wolf said he largely will rely on his transition committee to recommend people to fill top posts. His goal is to put in place his Cabinet by Jan. 20, the day he'll be sworn into office.

At a forum held by Women of Destiny — a group of black businesswomen with a mission of empowering others — Wolf spoke of the need for fairness in business and education.

“We need, above all, to make Pennsylvania a fairer, fairer place,” he said.

Problems with Philadelphia schools, for example, should be a concern for all Pennsylvanians, Wolf said. The governor and mayor appoint the five members of the School Reform Commission that runs Philadelphia's public schools, which have struggled with a funding crisis for years. With about 135,000 students, the district's state funding for this school year is $1.38 billion.

Wolf said ending “mass incarceration” could provide more money to direct toward education, and “decriminalizing marijuana” would be a step toward accomplishing that.

Fairness in business, Wolf said, means putting an end to “crony capitalism.”

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter.

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