The Senate Rules Committee gave the green light yesterday to Gov. Jerry Brown's pick to head the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, but not without airing concerns about the appointee's large workload.
Jacob Appelsmith, who worked under Brown in the Attorney General's Office, was appointed to serve as both the department's director and an unpaid senior adviser to the governor earlier this year. His current responsibilities include negotiating gambling compacts between the state and Native American tribes.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who chairs the Rules Committee, questioned how Appelsmith could juggle his various duties in the case of a crisis or when issues arise that require his immediate attention in multiple areas. Steinberg and others also cited Appelsmith's role providing additional support to the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which oversees the the alcohol control unit, as a liaison from the governor's office.
"Now, there's a lot of things that the leader can and should delegate to very good staff, then there are a lot of things that the leader himself or herself needs to be directly involved in. What happens if you have one of those days, one of those months, one of those three months periods (where you're needed in all roles).... assure us that nothing's going to fall through the cracks," the Sacramento Democrat asked.
"I've had some of those days," Appelsmith acknowledged, adding he "no question" shares some of the concerns raised about the current situation.
He said juggling the jobs "requires a lot of personal sacrifice," but credited strong staffs for keeping everything running relatively smoothly.
"We rely on having very talented people, as you're suggesting, who can in fact be there when we can't," he said.
While the committee approved the nomination on a 5-0 vote, Steinberg said he wants to have "some more conversations about the questions that we have raised here today before we actually move your nomination off the Senate floor."
GOP Sen. Tom Harman, vice chair of Rules, echoed Steinberg's comments, cautioning that his vote in committee might not translate into support on the floor unless concerns about the job juggling are addressed.
"The testimony and the things we heard about you here is you are unique, you are brilliant, you are doing an excellent job, but you are doing three jobs at one time and I'm concerned about that," Harman said.
Appelsmith will be paid $150,112 a year in his role as Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control director.
Brown spokesman Gil Duran called Appelsmith a "highly-competent individual with a razor sharp mind who doesn't require much sleep or food."
"The state is well-served by his hard work and dedicated service - and it's a great deal for taxpayers," Duran wrote in an email.