Clark Mercer currently serves as Chief of Staff to Governor Ralph Northam. Prior to his current appointment, Mercer served as then-Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s chief of staff for four years. Previously, Mercer served as a Professional Staff Member on the congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contracting, and as a consultant with LMI Government Consulting.
Originally from Alexandria, Mercer now lives in Ashland with his wife and two children. He received his Bachelor's degree from Yale University and his Master's degree in Public Policy from George Washington University..
The Chief of Staff serves as the senior aide to the Governor and is responsible for managing the day-to-day responsibilities of the Northam administration, ensuring that operations, staff, and activities are functioning efficiently and effectively.
Suzette Denslow previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Terence R. McAuliffe. Prior to her joining the Governor’s Office, Denslow served as the Chief of Staff to Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones. She has a long government background, and she served as Legislative Director for Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. In addition, she served as the Deputy Secretary of Education for Governor L. Douglas Wilder.
Previously, she spent about 15 years lobbying the General Assembly on behalf of local governments. She also was Deputy Director of the Virginia Municipal League, and the Director of the Tennessee Municipal League. She has a Master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Virginia and an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Deputy Chief of Staff is the top aide to the Chief of Staff and is responsible for assisting in managing the day-to-day responsibilities of the Office of the Governor, ensuring that operations, staff, and activities are functioning efficiently and effectively.
Kelly Thomasson was reappointed as Secretary of the Commonwealth by Governor Northam after serving in that role since 2016.
As Secretary of the Commonwealth, Kelly is passionate about creating a state government that is open and welcome to everyone. Kelly assists the Governor in recruiting and appointing over 3,000 qualified, service-minded individuals to serve on Virginia’s boards, commissions and councils. In addition, the office serves the Commonwealth through managing clemency petitions, restoration of civil rights, extraditions, service of process, authenticating documents and commissioning Notaries Public. The Secretary of the Commonwealth acts as the Governor’s liaison to Virginia’s Indian Tribes, as well as the Council on Women.
Kelly joined Governor McAuliffe’s administration as Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth in 2014, and was appointed as Secretary in 2016. Prior to that service, she worked for Senator Mark Warner for 13 years in various capacities, including Projects Director in his U.S. Senate office and Director of Scheduling in the Office of the Governor. Kelly is a native of Richmond and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is involved in many local community activities, including serving on the board of the Ashland Main Street Association. Kelly serves on the Lead Virginia Board of Directors and was appointed by Governor McAuliffe to serve on the Virginia Information Technology Advisory Council. She is a graduate of Lead Virginia and was named Top 40 Under 40 by Style Weekly in 2017.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth assists the Governor in his appointments to boards and commissions; manages extraditions, clemency petitions, restoration of voting rights, and countless other certifications and filings of the Commonwealth.
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Previously, she served as State Director and Director of Government and Community Affairs for U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, where she was the primary point of contact between the Senator’s office and representatives of state and local governments, public agencies and constituency organizations.
Prior to joining Sen. Warner’s official Senate office, Dr. Conner was a senior advisor on Sen. Warner’s 2014 re-election campaign.
Dr. Conner received her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Hampton University, and her doctoral degree in organic chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University. She grew up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
The five state agencies in the Administration secretariat manage the Commonwealth’s buildings and grounds, administer employee policies and benefits, oversee elections, safeguard human rights, work to improve manager-employee relations in state government, direct state funds to constitutional officers, and oversee the Commonwealth's information technology.
Secretary of Administration
The Secretary of Agriculture And Forestry is the voice of two of Virginia’s largest industries: Agriculture and Forestry. The combined industries provide more than 400,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.
Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
Brian Ball was appointed Secretary of Commerce and Trade in April of 2018. He previously served in the Northam Administration as Special Advisor for Economic Development and Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade.
Prior to joining the Northam Administration, Brian was an attorney at Williams Mullen where he concentrated his practice in mergers and acquisitions, securities laws and corporate governance matters. Brian served as a trusted advisor to senior management, boards of directors and audit and special board committees handling such matters as internal investigations and activist shareholders. He also regularly represented clients before state and federal administrative agencies and the Virginia General Assembly. Brian served on the firm’s board of directors and as its General Counsel.
Brian graduated with high distinction from the University of Virginia where he was an Echols Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia. He is admitted to practice in Virginia, the District of Columbia and California. He served as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California from 1981 to 1982.
Brian and his wife Jennifer, formerly of Waynesboro, reside in Richmond. They have two children.
The Secretary of Commerce and Trade oversees the economic, community, and workforce development of the Commonwealth. Each of the 13 Commerce and Trade Agencies actively contributes to Virginia's economic health and high quality of life.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade
Prior to his appointment as Governor Northam’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni taught at Beville Middle School in Prince William County, leading courses in civics, economics, U.S History, and mathematics. He has been a member of the Virginia Education Association since 2008, having previously served as a GED Night School Instructor. In 2016, Atif was recognized as the Dale City Teacher of the Year.
In addition to his work as an educator, Atif is a former Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps, Reserves and was deployed to Iraq in 2003 on Active Duty Assignment during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has also served at the state level, having been appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to the Small Business Commission in 2013.
Secretary Qarni holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology from George Washington University as well as a Master’s in History and teaching license from George Mason University.
The Secretary of Education provides guidance and support to the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Community College System, and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, as well as Virginia’s public and private higher education and research centers.
Secretary of Education
Aubrey L. Layne, Jr. serves as the Secretary of Finance in Governor Ralph S. Northam’s administration. Having taken his oath of office on January 14, 2018, he currently oversees the four main finance agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia: Department of Accounts; Department of Planning and Budget; Department of Taxation; and Department of the Treasury – along with the Virginia Resources Authority.
Previously, Governor Terence R. McAuliffe appointed Mr. Layne as Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Virginia – he served in this capacity from January 2014 - January 2018. As the Secretary of Transportation, he oversaw seven agencies with over 10,000 employees and combined budgets of more than $6 billion. Prior to his appointment, he represented the Hampton Roads area on the Commonwealth Transportation Board from 2006 until January 2014.
Before his service to the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mr. Layne most recently served as President of An Achievable Dream Academy in Newport News, Virginia, a unique partnership between Newport News Public Schools, the City of Newport News and the local business community to give students who are at risk of failure in school due to socioeconomic factors, a chance to succeed.
Also, Mr. Layne has served as President and Principal Broker of Great Atlantic Properties; he joined the company in 1994 and was responsible for operational activities, new business acquisition, and capital improvement strategy. Prior to joining Great Atlantic, he has held various positions at Hofheimer’s Inc., and ended his tenure there as President. Mr. Layne began his career as a Certified Public Accountant with KPMG.
Mr. Layne earned a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Richmond and received an MBA from Old Dominion University with a concentration in International Business. In 2011, he completed the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leaders program.
Secretary Layne and his wife, Peggy, reside in Richmond, Virginia.
The Secretary of Finance provides guidance to the four key agencies within the Finance Secretariat. These agencies handle all the financial transactions of the Commonwealth — from collecting taxes, to paying bills, to distributing aid to localities.
Secretary of Finance
Dr. Dan Carey joined the Northam Administration on January 13, 2018. Dr. Carey had been at the forefront of professional healthcare in Lynchburg, Virginia since 1997. Dr. Carey most recently served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Centra. In this capacity, his responsibilities included information technology services, patient quality and safety efforts, performance improvement initiatives, and the functions of the medical staff at Centra’s three acute care facilities. In addition, Dr. Carey was the system lead for Centra’s implementation of its new electronic health record.
Dr. Carey has held numerous leadership positions since joining Cardiology Associates of Central Virginia in 1997, which Centra later acquired in 2006. Within a year, he became Medical Director of the Acute MI Program and went on to serve as Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab and Medical Director of the Stroobants Heart Center. Dr. Carey became the President/Chief Physician Executive of the Centra Medical Group. In this capacity, he directed the acquisition of multiple physician practices, growing the medical group from 200 to 300+ providers. He also championed a new compensation model that integrated productivity, quality, service and group culture across specialties.
In 2014, Dr. Carey was selected to become Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Centra. Dr. Carey has special interest in medical leadership, and in addition to his roles at Centra, has also served as President of the Lynchburg Academy of Medicine, the Medical Society of Virginia and the MSV Foundation. Dr. Carey graduated from the University of Virginia and attended Harvard Medical School.
The Secretary of Health And Human Resources oversees twelve state agencies which provide often-vital services to Virginians including: individuals with disabilities, the aging community, low-income working families, children, and caregivers.
Secretary of Health and Human Resources
Matthew Strickler is the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to joining the Administration, he served as Senior Policy Advisor to Democratic members of the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. Originally from Lexington, Virginia, Matthew graduated from Washington and Lee University and holds master’s degrees in public policy and marine science from the College of William and Mary and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He was a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in NOAA’s Office of International Affairs in 2007, and worked on U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s successful 2008 campaign. Immediately prior to his time on Capitol Hill, Matthew worked in the Virginia General Assembly as a legislative assistant to then-state Senator Ralph Northam.
The Secretary of Natural Resources advises the Governor on Virginia's natural resources and works to advance the Governor's top environmental priorities. The Secretary oversees six agencies that protect and restore the Commonwealth’s natural and historic resources.
Secretary of Natural Resources
In 2014, Governor McAuliffe appointed Brian Moran to be the first Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security in Virginia history. Secretary Moran oversees a portfolio of 11 state agencies and the Homeland Security and Resilience Staff Group. He serves as the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor, charged with being the primary liaison to the Department of Homeland Security and the Virginia Fusion Center.
Secretary Moran has helped transform the homeland security grant process and continues to make cybersecurity a point of emphasis as we move into the digital age. In addition to homeland security, Secretary Moran is the Governor’s advisor for all criminal justice related issues; co-chairing a variety of Governor’s Task Forces including: the Parole Review Commission, the Task Force on Combating Sexual Violence and the Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse.
In 2016, Governor McAuliffe signed into law a historic bipartisan compromise to increase firearm safety in the Commonwealth. Secretary Moran was the chief negotiator, establishing the toughest domestic violence law in the nation. Secretary Moran also led the effort to secure historic investments in correctional rehabilitation and reentry programs. Virginia now enjoys the lowest recidivism rate in the nation. He is also overseeing the successful transformation of Virginia’s Juvenile Justice System.
Additionally, Secretary Moran is Virginia’s first Chief Resilience Officer, charged with leading the effort to prepare Virginia for the current and future effects of sea level rise and recurrent flooding. In 2016, he headed the successful effort to secure the largest state resilience grant in the nation of $120 million, along with co-chairing the Governor’s Climate change and Resiliency Update Commission.
The Secretary of Public Safety And Homeland Security enhances the quality of Virginia’s citizens, visitors and businesses of the Commonwealth through public awareness, education, training, emergency response, disaster preparedness, prevention, policy development, enforcement, response, recovery and reentry.
Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security
Shannon Valentine was appointed Secretary of Transportation by Governor Ralph Northam in January 2018, and oversees a $5 billion multimodal transportation system crossing seven agencies with more than 10,000 employees.
As Secretary, she also serves as Chair of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).
Valentine is a former Member of the Virginia House of Delegates, serving on the House Transportation and Courts of Justice Committees. Her legislative priorities focused on transportation, economic development, education, and ethics. She led bipartisan efforts to create transparent government, expand clean energy production, and invest in intercity passenger rail service for the first time in Virginia’s history.
Following an assignment as a Director of the Transportation Policy Council in 2013 for then Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe’s transition team, Valentine was appointed as the Lynchburg District representative to the CTB in May 2014. During this time, she created the first Regional Connectivity Study in Virginia that correlated transportation decisions with workforce, business expansion and recruitment and investment, covering eight modes of transportation.
She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia in economics. She graduated from the Sorensen Institute at UVA, and completed Education for Ministry, a four-year theology course through Sewanee University’s School of Theology.
The Secretary of Transportation ensures our Commonwealth has a safe and efficient transportation system to support and improve every Virginian's quality of life.
Secretary of Transportation
On September 1, 2017, Carlos Hopkins was appointed Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs. He previously served as Counsel to the Governor. Prior to this he served as a Deputy City Attorney in Richmond. Before joining the City Attorney’s Office, Carlos operated a small, private practice. He served as the Training Director for the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, and as a Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney in Richmond. In addition to his civilian legal experiences, Carlos holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Virginia Army National Guard. Carlos received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from The Citadel and holds a law degree from the University of Richmond.
The Secretary of Veterans And Defense Affairs distinguishes and elevates issues and opportunities for our veterans in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Leads the Governor’s initiatives focused on relationship building with and support of our military and defense installations and the communities surrounding them.
Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs
Rita Poindexter Davis is originally from Bedford County, Virginia. After graduating from Washington and
Lee University, she spent three and a half years as a police officer with the Lynchburg City Police
Department. While there, she worked in patrol, street crimes, D.A.R.E, vice investigations and in several
undercover assignments. After graduating from the University Of Richmond School Of Law, Ms. Davis
clerked for the Honorable Richard S. Arnold on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
in Little Rock, Arkansas. Following her clerkship, Ms. Davis joined the Richmond Office of Hunton and
Williams LLP, now known as Hunton Andrews Kurth, as a complex commercial litigator. There, she
practiced civil litigation, local tax appeals, and alcohol beverage compliance.
Ms. Davis joined the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia as Section Chief
for Trials in the Civil Litigation Division. She supervised a team of 21 attorneys defending the
Commonwealth in civil, employment law, and workers compensation litigation. Ms. Davis was
appointed as Counsel to the Honorable Ralph S. Northam in January of 2018.
The Counsel to the Governor provides oversight and guidance for legal matters occurring within the Office of the Governor.
Dr. Megan Healy serves on Governor Northam’s Cabinet as his Chief Workforce Development Advisor. As the Commonwealth’s highest ranking workforce officer, she oversees a range of regional, state, and federal programs that connect Virginians to the skills, training, and opportunities they need to thrive in the 21st century economy. In addition to her partners within government, Secretary Healy works closely with Virginia’s labor and business communities to identify and fill vacant jobs in high demand sectors.
Having started her career as science professor at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Secretary Healy keenly appreciates how education can change lives and communities. Prior to joining the Northam administration, she served as Virginia’s first Director of STEM-H under Governor McAuliffe before returning to the Virginia Community College System as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academics. Secretary Megan Healy is a proud product of Virginia’s public schools, holding a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech, a master’s from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a doctorate from Old Dominion University.
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