- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

RICHMOND Virginia Gov.-elect Mark R. Warner yesterday announced the three remaining choices to round out his 10-member Cabinet, just nine days before the Democrat takes office.

He chose Anita A. Rimler, former campaign adviser and fund-raiser, for secretary of the commonwealth; Sandra D. Bowen, former business lobbyist, for secretary of administration; and George C. Newstrom, Northern Virginia high-tech executive, for secretary for technology.

Mr. Warner's choices must be approved by the General Assembly, which convenes Jan. 9 for its 60-day session.

The most politically sensitive and perhaps controversial nomination announced yesterday was that of Miss Rimler. During the Warner 2000 campaign, she helped raise millions for the $20-million-plus campaign treasury. She was a senior adviser in 1996 for Mr. Warner's failed U.S. Senate bid. In the post she is nominated to fill, Miss Rimler would be responsible for helping Mr. Warner make about 3,000 political appointments to boards and commissions throughout his term.

Mr. Warner and Miss Rimler, 58, said they would seek out candidates based on their experience and ability, not party affiliation. The secretary of the commonwealth's job, however, traditionally is to help the governor parcel out political patronage jobs to supporters of the executive's agenda.

"The watchword will be Virginia first," Mr. Warner said at a news conference to announce his choices, who each will be paid $128,000 a year.

Virginia Republican Party Executive Director Ed Matricardi said he finds it odd that Mr. Warner who has vowed to build a bipartisan administration choose Miss Rimler.

"She is the ultrapartisan," Mr. Matricardi said. "Rimler is going to be giving very, very partisan advice to the governor."

In some ways, Mr. Matricardi said, Mr. Warner is in a Catch-22 because he will be expected to appoint centrists and conservatives to the boards and commissions, and that will anger his more liberal-leaning political base.

"At the end of the day, I think they are going to end up upsetting both groups," Mr. Matricardi said.

Miss Bowen, 60, will be charged with looking over the nuts-and-bolts of state government, such as making sure that state employees get their paychecks on time and that agencies have buildings from which to work.

Before being asked to join the Warner administration, Miss Bowen was the vice president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce for more than a decade. From 1986 to 1990, she served as secretary of the commonwealth in Democrat Gerald L. Baliles' administration.

"She will be a full partner in my efforts to make state government more accountable to Virginia's taxpayers," Mr. Warner said.

Tight financial times in Virginia, with its $1.2 billion budget shortfall this year, will mean cutbacks in state agencies' budgets, Mr. Warner said, adding it will be Miss Bowen's job to ensure the cuts don't affect morale or services to the public.

"There will be some pain," Mr. Warner said.

Miss Bowen said she sees the challenges presented by the gloomy financial picture as opportunities for government to work with the private sector to make government more efficient in lean times.

Mr. Warner said Mr. Newstrom, 55, brings "front-line experience" to the technology post, which was created during Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III's administration. Technology Secretary Donald Upson will stay on the job until Mr. Newstrom, who is a senior executive for Electronic Data Systems, joins the Warner administration March 1.

"George Newstrom was one of the early leaders of Northern Virginia's technology community," Mr. Warner said. "I want Virginia to be known as the state that gets the information age right, and George is already one of the people who's making it happen."

There could be something of a restructuring of the post, Mr. Warner said.

Instead of having the technology secretary simply signing off on purchases of high-tech equipment, Mr. Newstrom would be involved in the buying, planning and implementation of new technologies for state government.

"We're all going to be starting from the same starting point," Mr. Warner said of the approach he expects to take with the technology post.

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