The Lead

Top Wolf aides leaving admin. next month for private sector

By: - June 24, 2021 1:15 pm

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf at a 2017 news conference announcing highway improvements in southeastern Pennsylvania (Commonwealth Media Services photo)

Two of Gov. Tom Wolf’s top aides are leaving the administration for jobs in the private sector

In a press release, the administration said Mike Brunelle, who has been Wolf’s chief of staff since 2017 and part of the Democratic governor’s administration since Wolf’s first term in 2015, would leave effective next Monday. He’ll be replaced by deputy Chief of Staff Elena Cross.

Two sources with direct knowledge of Brunelle’s plans told the Capital-Star the job was with the e-commerce giant Amazon.

Jen Swails, the governor’s budget secretary, is also leaving for a job in the private sector, according to the release.

As chief of staff, Brunelle has represented Wolf in critical negotiations with Republican lawmakers on budgets and other legislative matters.

Before working for Wolf, Brunelle was the campaigns director for Service Employees International Union from 2013 until 2015, leading the 2 million strong union’s efforts to raise the minimum wage, among other pushes.

Brunelle leaving comes as Wolf enters the latter half of his second and final term. Governors are limited to two terms in Pennsylvania.

Brunelle is not alone among the administration’s top staff in finding new employment opportunities. In the past year, at least five of Wolf’s 23 cabinet secretaries have left the administration for new jobs.

That includes Wolf’s former Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, who joined President Joe Biden’s administration; former Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller, head of the state’s biggest department, who took a job as CEO of Kansas Health Foundation; and Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, who is now president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster.

In many of these secretaries’ places are former top Wolf staffers. Former Deputy Chief of Staff Alison Beam replaced Levine atop the Health Department, and former policy secretary Meg Snead now heads the Department of Human Services.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.