URBANDALE - Donna Mueller will stay on as leader of the Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System and Terry Rich will continue to guide the Iowa Lottery when Governor-elect Terry Branstad is sworn in for a fifth term on Jan. 14, Branstad announced Wednesday.
The incoming governor also said Isaiah McGee will serve as head of state Department of Human Rights in his new administration. The Waukee resident -- who is a member of the Iowa Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and has served on the Generation Iowa Commission and the Iowa Indignant Defense Commission - will lead that state agency tasked with ensuring rights, freedoms, and opportunities for all Iowans.
As is the tradition, Branstad asked top administrators in Gov. Chet Culver's administration to tender their resignations while he assembled a new leadership team, but Wednesday he said he had rejected the resignations of Mueller and Rich and asked them to stay on in their current capacities. That brings the number of Culver administration hold-over directors to five - including John Baldwin at the Iowa Department of Corrections, Nancy Richardson at the Iowa Department of Transportation and Brigadier General Tim Orr as the adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard.
In keeping Mueller at the helm of IPERS, a pension system with assets topping $21 billion that serves about 300,000 current and former public workers and retirees, Branstad said he was impressed by her credentials, knowledge, experience and capabilities and wanted to work with her to find ways to make IPERS affordable and sustainable over time.
"The IPERS system right now is not actuarially sound and they've been increasing the contributions," he said during a West Des Moines town meeting. "We're in a lot better shape than a lot of other states, but we do have some challenges and problems."
Branstad said he wanted to allay concerns by assuring IPERS recipients that their current benefits would not change, but he was interested in using private-sector models that developed "hybrid systems" that might shift from a defined benefit approach to a defined contribution approach for new state and local government employees that would provide portability and ensure better sustainability in the future.
"I have full faith and confidence in Donna and her abilities," Branstad said. "Donna has spearheaded a number of creative and successful initiatives in IPERS, and her wealth of knowledge and experience will be of great service to the people of Iowa."
As chief executive officer since January 2003, Mueller is responsible for overseeing operations, investments, benefits and all other facts of IPERS, an independent agency within the executive branch that is a public pension fund for employees of state and local governments in Iowa. More than 2,200 employers participate in IPERS.
In retaining Rich as Lottery CEO, Branstad said he has been a "trusted head" of the state-run gambling enterprise since taking over the top post in February 2009. Prior to taking the state post, Rich was leader of the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines and previously held executive positions in communications-related businesses and other ventures.
"Terry Rich has my full confidence and I look forward to working with him in our administration," said Branstad in keeping him in charge of a $250 million Iowa venture that generates about $60 million in profits to the state's general fund. Rich also serves on the board of the multi-state Powerball game, and the new multi-state lottery game being developed for the U.S. market.