Guinn's Staff Chief to be Schwarzenegger Cabinet Secretary

Arnold Schwarzenegger
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Marybel Batjer, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's chief of staff, is leaving to become California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger cabinet secretary.

Batjer will be replaced in her $111,000-a-year Nevada job by Michael Hillerby, who has been serving as Guinn's deputy chief of staff. Batjer said Tuesday she didn't discuss pay with Schwarzenegger, but Guinn said he did and she's "going to do better."

Batjer said Schwarzenegger called Guinn a week ago, following her meeting with Schwarzenegger and his key staffers to discuss various border issues, to say he wanted to offer her the key policy post.

Several phone conversations between Batjer and Schwarzenegger followed, ending in Batjer's decision to take the post in which she'll spell out policy from the governor to his cabinet members and organize and manage cabinet affairs.

"This is a very difficult decision because I think the world of Gov. Guinn," Batjer said. But she said Schwarzenegger wanted someone experienced in policy work who understood California government - and she met those requirements.

"It's a good day and a sad day for Nevada," said Guinn, adding that he warned Schwarzenegger that Batjer "works too long, she works too hard."

Batjer became Guinn's chief of staff three years ago, after working as an executive for Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas and in former California Gov. Pete Wilson's administration.

In California, she was an undersecretary for the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and chief deputy director for the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Batjer, a fourth-generation Nevadan, also served in the Reagan administration, on the staffs on the National Security Council and former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. She was a special assistant for national security affairs to Reagan.

Her appointment should help Nevada in dealing with California on issues of mutual concern such as the economy, Indian gambling, energy and Lake Tahoe.

Batjer said following her recent meeting with Schwarzenegger in Southern California that both states "have so much at stake" because of their entertwined economies. She also said she saw no looming conflicts between the two governors, noting that Guinn had a good working relationship with outgoing California Gov. Gray Davis.

Besides a healthy economy - which translates into Californians with extra dollars they can spend as gamblers and tourists in Nevada - Batjer said roads and energy are key concerns for both administrations. She noted Nevada's pipelines come in from California, and the two states share the same power grid.

Lake Tahoe is another common concern, Batjer said, noting the scenic lake divides the two states high in the Sierra, and its water quality is protected by the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

At her initial meeting with Schwarzenegger, Batjer said there was only brief discussions about Indian gambling - a big issue for Nevada because of the threat of economic harm to this state's casinos, especially in the Reno and Tahoe areas, as such gambling expands in California.

Schwarzenegger already has suggested that California tribes should pay 25 percent of their gambling revenues to help resolve his state's budget problems.