Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Gov. Corbett’s top aide has left his post. Chief of staff Bill Ward is stepping down to become a judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Ward’s departure comes in the wake of published reports the administration is shuffling its staff to weather a drop in popularity and appease unhappy GOP donors and advisers urging the governor to improve how he deals with the Republican-controlled legislature. Corbett’s spokesman has denied such claims.
Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College, said the change could signal a shift in the way the administration shapes its message.
“It’s not unusual. It’s, in fact, rather typical and I don’t think the difference at the moment, [that] exists within the Republican Party and the advisors to the governor, that it’s a question of policies.”
Madonna noted Corbett’s approval rating has been sinking, which he said isn’t surprising given the economy.
“Governing during a recession often meets popular programs and once you start to do that, you lose popularity with the voters,” said Madonna. “You lose the positive contributions to your job performance.”
Protests against the governor’s proposed budget cuts to education and social services have been regular occurrences at the Capitol.
Ward’s nomination to the county bench still needs to be confirmed by the state Senate. His replacement, Stephen Aichele, is currently Corbett’s general counsel. He’ll take the reins as chief of staff Tuesday. Aichele is married to Carol Aichele, the Commonwealth secretary.
The Corbett administration announced Ward’s exit this afternoon:
Governor Corbett to Nominate William Ward to Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas; Names Stephen Aichele as Chief of Staff
Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett today announced that he will nominate current chief of staff William F. Ward to a vacancy on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Ward, 60, of Mt. Lebanon, Allegheny County, will depart his present post after serving 16 months as the governor’s top aide. In addition to fulfilling a longstanding career goal to serve in a judicial post, the change reunites Ward with his wife and family in Pittsburgh.
“For as long as I’ve known Bill, it’s been his dream to be a judge,” Corbett said. “I’m happy to help make that dream happen, both for Bill and for the citizens who will benefit from his knowledge and integrity.”
The governor described Ward as “a trusted friend and advisor for more than 30 years.”
“My current role in government has been both professionally challenging and personally rewarding,” Ward said today. “A position serving on the bench in Allegheny County will allow me to be reunited with my family in Pittsburgh while continuing to serve the Commonwealth.”
Ward is a former federal and state prosecutor who served as First Deputy to then-Attorney General Corbett in the mid 1990s.
Ward had been a Merit Selection Finalist for a 2000 vacancy on the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County and a year later he was a Merit Selection Finalist for an opening on the U.S. District Court bench in Pittsburgh.
In both 1994 and 2002, he was a Merit Selection Finalist to fill a vacancy for United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
He is an honors graduate of The College of the Holy Cross and Temple University School of Law.
Ward began his legal career as a law clerk to United States District Judge Louis C. Bechtle in Philadelphia. Two years later, then-Attorney General Griffin Bell appointed him Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He later was promoted to chief of the office’s Economic Crimes Section.
In 1996, Corbett appointed Ward to be First Deputy Attorney General. The following year, Gov. Tom Ridge named Ward as Chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, a cabinet-level position. He resumed his legal career in Pittsburgh in 2003 until Gov. Corbett appointed him to serve as chief of staff.
Ward and his wife, Joan, are parents of two children.
Pending confirmation by the state Senate, Ward will serve as a special adviser to the governor.
Corbett said that current General Counsel Stephen Aichele will succeed Ward as his chief of staff, effective Tuesday, May 29.
For more information about Governor Corbett and his administration, visit www.governor.pa.gov.
Published in State House Sound Bites
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