Gov. Kelly searching for new secretaries of transportation, administration and a fire marshal

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TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s list of second-term executive branch vacancies climbed to three with retirement of the state’s fire marshal.

Kelly, who will be sworn into office Jan. 9 following reelection in November, must replace state fire marshal Doug Jorgensen, who was among the few holdovers from the administrations of Republican Govs. Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer.

Kelly has also launched the search for individuals to nominate for Cabinet posts in the departments of transportation and administration.

She is expected to wait until January to nominate replacements for Julia Lorenz, who led the Kansas Department of Transportation, and DeAngela Burns-Wallace, who was secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration. Both appointees would be subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate.

Jorgensen, appointed fire marshal by Brownback in 2011, was at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for 28 years. He was retained when Kelly took office in 2019.

“He has worked tirelessly to protect Kansans and property from devastating fires and to support communities in times of loss,” Kelly said.

Jorgensen will retire in January, but temporarily serve as deputy fire marshal to assist with transition to his replacement. The Kansas Senate also has confirmation authority over fire marshal appointments.

Three years ago, Jorgensen raised questions about shallow investigation of fatal fires in Kansas. He told state legislators cases were “falling through the cracks.” He pointed to six fatalities — including one homicide — resulting from explosions or fires in a one-year period that hadn’t been thoroughly investigated.

In 2013, he generated controversy by proposing the fire marshal’s office resume oversight of the explosive industry in Kansas. The office lost power to issue permits in 2010 when an assistant attorney general inadvertently deleted that regulatory authority. Explosive industry representatives objected to his proposal.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed serving three governors as the State Fire Marshal for the last eleven years, and most importantly, supporting the state fire service and helping keep the citizens of Kansas safe,” Jorgensen said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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