JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon's appointment of David Kerr as the state's new economic development director brought mixed reactions from state Republican leaders Thursday.
The announcement came after Nixon's original choice for the position, Linda Martinez, suddenly resigned last month and wrote a letter to the governor expressing frustration over cooperation. Since then, Katie Steele Danner has served as the interim director.
Kerr comes to the state from the Kansas Department of Commerce, where he has served as the department's secretary since 2007. Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti said the governor crossed state lines for a new director "because he's the right man for the job."
Kerr has worked for AT&T, holding various executive management positions in Missouri, Kansas and Texas. He will begin the job Nov. 9, but must be confirmed by the state Senate when the General Assembly returns to session next year.
"David Kerr has an impressive resume of success as both the leader of a state economic development agency and in the private sector as a top executive with one of the largest telecommunications companies in the country, " Nixon said in a news release. "His experience will be a great asset to Missouri in the competition to attract and retain the good-paying jobs that will make the best use of our highly skilled, trained workforces."
In a news release, Missouri Republicans blamed Nixon's "petty personal conflicts" for a lack of leadership in the Economic Development Department.
"The economy is sputtering, the number of Missourians without work continues to climb and job opportunities have been lost because Jay Nixon has put politics in front of people," Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, said in the release. "It is time for Nixon to finally get serious about creating jobs and putting Missourians back to work."
GOP spokesman Jonathon Prouty said he hoped Kerr would work more closely with Nixon.
"At the end of the day, my hope is that he can at least get the attention of this governor — that jobs are important to average Missouri families," he said. "He looks like he has some good credentials."
Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said in the governor's news release: "I look forward to Director Kerr being an important part of the bipartisan effort by Gov. Nixon and the General Assembly to build a robust economic climate in Missouri."
Missouri legislative leadership, both Democratic and Republican, declined or were unavailable for comment.