Governor Terry Branstad says he had hoped Iowa Workforce Development director would remain in the job, but Teresa Wahlert abruptly resigned this weekend.
“Actually Teresa contacted my chief of staff Matt Hinch on Friday and indicated that she wanted to retire on Sunday,” Branstad told reporters this morning during his weekly news conference. “…We would have preferred that she’d have stayed on, but we accepted the fact that she wanted to do that.”
Wahlert drew fire for closing over four dozen Workforce Development offices around the state where unemployed Iowans went to apply for benefits and conduct a job search, plus Democrats in the state senate suggested Wahlert bullied employees in the agency. This summer, Wahlert told a senate committee she has a “direct” management style.
“I know that some personalities adapt to change easier and more readily than others,” Wahlert said.
Wahlert was confirmed by the state senate for a four-year term as director of Iowa Workforce Development in 2011, but key senators had warned she would not get confirmed again in 2015. The governor acknowledged Wahlert likely wouldn’t have been able to remain in the post, but Branstad defends the way she managed the agency.
“We know that she was under attack from Senate Democrats,” Branstad said today. “We didn’t feel the accusations were fair and that she’d done a good job.”
AUDIO of governor’s weekly news conference, where he discussed Wahlert’s retirement, 30:00
Branstad, however, did not indicate he planned to nominate Wahlert for another term, just that he hoped she would have “stayed on.” On Sunday, Branstad appointed Beth Townsend, the head of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, to be acting director of Iowa Workforce Development. Branstad will consider Townsend for the post on a permanent basis, after a face-to-face interview.
Branstad also faces two other key management openings in his administration. The director of the Iowa Department of Corrections is retiring and last week the commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety retired.