- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A former congressman, a term-limited state lawmaker and the current state police superintendent are among John Bel Edwards’ latest Cabinet appointments announced Wednesday, as the Democratic governor-elect continues building his new administration.

Edwards named former U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon as secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and term-limited state Rep. Karen St. Germain as commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles.

Col. Mike Edmonson, a state trooper for 35 years, will remain Louisiana’s state police leader, a job he’s held for the eight years of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration. And Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis will continue in his position as adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard.

“Louisiana faces significant challenges, but I have never been more optimistic about the future of our state,” Edwards said in a statement. “We’re assembling the best team possible that is well-positioned to tackle these challenges from day one.”

Edwards’ pick for economic development secretary is Don Pierson, who now works as senior director of business development for the agency during a tenure that has seen the state make significant gains in attracting companies to Louisiana. Pierson has been with the department for 10 years.

For transportation secretary, the governor-elect tapped Shawn Wilson, who has been chief of staff to three transportation secretaries over the past decade and knows the ins and outs of a department grappling with a $12 billion backlog of road and bridge work.

To be the chief lawyer for the governor’s office, Edwards selected Matthew Block, a Thibodaux attorney who has been in private practice for 17 years, as executive counsel.

Pierson will get less than the $320,000 Jindal paid Stephen Moret in the economic development job. His salary will be $237,500, according to information provided by Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo. Wilson will receive $176,900 as transportation secretary, about $7,000 more than his predecessor.

Salaries for most other hires announced Wednesday will remain at the level the Jindal administration has paid for the jobs. Other appointees include:

- Joey Strickland as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Strickland is a retired colonel and 30-year Army veteran. He was VA director under former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and worked five years as the leader of Arizona’s VA agency.

- Juana Marine-Lombard, criminal magistrate commissioner for Orleans Parish, as commissioner of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

For his executive staff, the governor-elect added Erin Monroe Wesley, chief operating officer for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, as special counsel.

Three deputy chiefs of staff will be Julie Baxter Payer, a former TV reporter and lawyer who worked for the state Senate and the legislative auditor’s office; former Washington Parish President Toye Taylor, who most recently worked for the Louisiana Municipal Association; and Johnny Anderson, who worked as Blanco’s assistant chief of staff.

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