Corbett taps Pittsburgh attorney as chief of staff

    Two weeks after Gov.-elect Tom Corbett’s incoming chief of staff abruptly quit before he started, the new administration has found a new top staffer. Pittsburgh lawyer Bill Ward has been tapped for the job. Ward and Corbett have known each other for more than 30 years, having worked together in the Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney’s office in the 1980s. During Corbett’s first stint at attorney general, Ward was his top staffer. Ward also represented “Bonusgate” defendant Rachel Manzo as she negotiated a “guilty” plea.  Ward, who chaired the Board of Probation during the Ridge Administration, currently works at Pittsburgh law firm Ward McGough, LLC. He’s donated $1,700 to Corbett since 2003, but only $100 to his gubernatorial bid. Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley says the administration will be set up the same way under Ward as it would have been if longtime Corbett aide Brian Nutt had stayed on the job. “The deputies still will report to the chief of staff. For example, the director of communication, the director of planning, the director of scheduling, the director – secretary of legislative affairs. They all report to the chief of staff,” he said. Harley insisted Corbett’s transition team didn’t lose any momentum by searching for a new chief of staff over the last two weeks. Just what does a chief of staff do? John Estey, who held the job from 2003 to 2007, said it had two main functions. “The first was to manage the governor’s staff – the governor’s day-to-day activities. To make sure that everybody was pursing the appropriate and timely policy agenda the governor wanted to implement,” he said.  “The second role of the governor’s chief of staff was to work on legislative matters. To be part of the team liaison with the legislature, to try and negotiate the legislative agenda.” Estey said Ward needs to keep things in perspective. “The best advice that I got going into the job is that there’s nothing that you can mess up so badly that you can’t fix it,” Estey said. “You’re there to provide stability and to provide long-term vision and calmness in the face of what sometimes seems to be a hurricane.”

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