Gov.-elect Mike Pence on Thursday announced several appointments to his administration, including a new secretary of commerce and a separate CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's lead business-development agency.
Victor Smith, a former president and CEO of California-based CDS Engineering while it was a subsidiary of Muncie-based Ontario Corp., will serve as secretary of commerce.
Eric Doden will lead the IEDC. Doden most recently was an executive at Domo Ventures LLC, a boutique private equity firm in Fort Wayne.
Smith and Doden will replace Dan Hasler, who served as both secretary of commerce and CEO of IEDC under outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Smith is the son of Van Smith, former chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Pence's election campaign.
In the early 1990s, Victor Smith worked for U.S. Sen. Dan Coats’ campaign, for the Federal Housing Finance Board and for then-Vice President Dan Quayle. The Muncie native is a graduate of Colgate University and earned his law degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
In 2011, Doden ran unsuccessfully for Fort Wayne mayor on the Republican ticket. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Hillsdale College and his law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law.
Pence said Smith, who has international business experience, will "carry Indiana's message across the country and around the world," while Doden will work to identify companies poised for growth and forge partnerships with the private sector. Both positions are cabinet-level appointments, he said.
“Two is better than one,” Pence said in explaining why he is replacing one position with two. “Look, there are a lot of opportunities out there for the Hoosier state.”
Pence did not directly address recent criticism over the IEDC after a local media investigation uncovered bribery allegations involving an IEDC contractor in China. However, he did acknowledge and agreed with demands for greater transparency.
Steps are planned to make the commerce department's work more open to the public, Pence said. He promised a "transparency portal" by spring and said information on the IEDC's incentives and incomes will be part of that. "People have a right to know," he said.
Pence also named Sean Keefer as the new commissioner of labor. Keefer, of Fishers, has served as chief of staff in the Indiana Department of Health since 2011.
Pence also named Dr. William VanNess as his state health commissioner. VanNess had served as president and CEO of Community Hospital in Anderson from 1997 until his appointment.
Bruce Lemmon, who was appointed commissioner of the Department of Correction in early 2011, will remain in the position.
Danny Lopez and Jackie Cissell were named special assistants to the governor. Lopez is executive director of the Indiana Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. Cissell is assistant director of the Office of School Improvement and Turnaround for Community Engagement.