MONTPELIER -- Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday appointed the state's commissioner of education to the new position of secretary of education.
Armando Vilaseca will serve one year in the newly created cabinet-level post, and Shumlin says a national search will begin at midyear for someone to take the job on a more permanent basis. The 57-year-old Vilaseca, who lives in Westford, had said when he was hired as commissioner more than four years ago that he wanted to spend about five years in state government.
Vilaseca was among three finalists for the job of secretary, which was created by the Legislature last year at Shumlin's request.
Vermont's Department of Education had been headed by a commissioner who reported to a quasi-independent Board of Education. A series of governors had pushed for changing the department to an agency with a secretary reporting to the governor.
Shumlin, who has been pushing to strengthen science, technology, engineering and math training for Vermont's young people since taking office two years ago, said he would have several education initiatives to announce in his annual State of the State Address next week, but declined to give specifics.
"I was lucky to have three strong candidates for the secretary's post, but with my expansive education agenda, making a change in leadership right now does not make sense," Shumlin said "I have confidence Armando is the right person to be sure we don't miss a beat in the coming months.
Shumlin also announced several other senior staff changes, and a reorganization within the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. That umbrella agency had combined two of its departments, housing and economic development, several years ago. But Shumlin said Thursday their missions have not always meshed well, and that they would be made into two separate departments again.
The staff changes include:
-- Former Rep. Lucy Leriche of Hardwick will become deputy secretary of the commerce agency, replacing Patricia Moulton-Powden, who is leaving to work for the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.
-- Sue Minter, who has headed up the state's recovery efforts following Tropical Storm Irene of 2011, will return to her previous post as deputy secretary of the Agency of Transportation. Minter's deputy in the Irene recovery office, David Rappaport, will move up to take her place.
-- Press secretary Susan Allen will continue in that job but take on additional duties as deputy chief of staff. In the latter role, Allen replaces Alex MacLean, who is leaving for a job in the private sector.
-- Former Sen. Susan Bartlett, who had been working as special assistant to the governor on human services issues, moves over to the Agency of Human Services as special projects coordinator.
-- Former Rep. Floyd Nease will join the Agency of Human Services as director of systems integration, working to ensure that the various departments within the agency, such as the Department for Children and Families and Department of Mental Health, offer better coordinated services to Vermonters who need them.