Former LG’s next job: business lobbyist

By: - January 2, 2019 6:01 pm

Former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley | NIck Manes

Former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who left office on Tuesday, has already found his next line of work.

Calley, a Republican who mounted an unsuccessful primary bid for governor last year, will serve as the president of the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), leading communications and government affairs work for the small business-focused membership group based in downtown Lansing.

“It’s an organization that I’ve long respected and have been delighted to work with going back to my days in the House,” Calley told the Advance this morning, referring to his four years serving in the Michigan Legislature before ascending to lieutenant governor in 2011.

Up until today, Calley had been coy on what his next step would be, telling the Advance in a Dec. 20 interview that he wanted to “keep my foot in the door” in the public sector. He also didn’t rule out another gubernatorial run.

Calley’s former boss, former Gov. Rick Snyder, has been mostly quiet on next steps, short of saying he plans to take his family on a waterfall tour of the Upper Peninsula.

The former LG isn’t the first statewide elected official to go this route after his term ended. Former Gov. John Engler, now interim Michigan State University president, left for Washington, D.C., after being termed out as governor in 2003. Engler served as president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as president of the Business Roundtable.

Calley, who previously worked in the banking sector, was named SBAM’s 2008 Legislator of the Year.

Rob Fowler

“We could not be happier or more excited to welcome Brian and to work with him in the fight to support Michigan small businesses and the men and women who work for them,” SBAM CEO Rob Fowler said in a statement. “Brian has a long and accomplished record of advocating for the interests of small businesses in Michigan. His experience, vision and passion make him a perfect choice to lead our organization now and into the future.”

In a phone interview, Calley noted that SBAM’s work is about 80 percent focused on providing services for its roughly 26,000 members, with the remainder spent on public policy and lobbying.

“The mission of the organization is helping businesses to be successful and grow,” Calley said. “My goal is to create the best environment for success.”

The announcement of Calley’s hiring at SBAM was greeted with excitement from Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), who tweeted that he believes the former lieutenant governor “will do a fantastic job” at the organization.

Michigan has a new Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, but Republicans continue to hold majorities in the House and Senate this term. Calley said divided government can prove difficult, but also presents new opportunities.

“It’s harder to govern in this type of environment,” Calley said, stressing his “record and reputation” of working in a bipartisan manner and his intention to do so in his new position. “I think Gov. Whitmer has an excellent opportunity to bring fresh perspective to building strong communities in our state.”

Julie Calley

Calley declined at this time to comment on specific policy priorities or if new Lame Duck laws Snyder signed, like scaling back minimum wage and paid sick time initiatives, would benefit the organization’s members. He did say that SBAM’s board would be meeting in the coming weeks to discuss specific policy priorities, but pointed to workforce development, education and infrastructure as key areas that he hopes to works on.

Calley’s wife, Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland), just began her second term in the Legislature. Asked whether there was potential for any conflicts of interest, Calley said, “Anyone who thinks for one minute that how she does her job would be modified [due to his job] … is sorely mistaken.”

Calley said that given the “small town” nature of Lansing, there was no point in further putting off announcing his new position, which was first reported this morning by Crain’s Detroit.

“Once you make a decision, you may as well go forward with it, because it’s a small town,” he said, adding that the decision to join SBAM was a pretty simple one. “I’ve got small business in my blood. This is a logical step.”

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.