TOPEKA — Gov.-elect Sam Brownback filled two public safety posts on Friday, nominating a federal official with Kansas ties as Highway Patrol superintendent and a legislator who's served three decades in the Kansas National Guard as its next commander.
Brownback's choice for the patrol's top officer is Ernest Garcia, who served as a senior assistant to Wichita's city manager from 2000 to 2003. He has held senior management jobs, including acting director, since 2005 in the U.S. Selective Service System, which maintains a registry of 18-year-olds for potential military drafts.
A Garden City native, Garcia also has been U.S. Senate sergeant at arms, an aide to President Ronald Reagan and an assistant to Bob Dole when he was a senator.
State Rep. Lee Tafanelli, a Guard colonel, will become state adjutant general when Brownback takes office on Jan. 10. Tafanelli, from Ozawkie, has served in the Kansas House since 2001, with an interruption in 2005 for a tour in Iraq as commander of an engineering battalion.
Both men have military backgrounds — Garcia is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel — and both are Republicans, like Brownback. Both appointments are expected to be confirmed by the Kansas Senate.
Garcia, 64, will replace patrol Superintendent Terry Maple, who's retiring Jan. 1 after serving as its top officer since February 2008. Brownback said that despite state budget problems, he's hoping to find ways to beef up the patrol's staffing and fill vacant trooper jobs.
Tafanelli, 49, will replace Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, who's retiring when outgoing Gov. Mark Parkinson leaves office.
Tafanelli has served as assistant adjutant general since July and also is a program coordinator at Kansas State University's National Agricultural Biosecurity Center. His promotion to brigadier general is pending with the U.S. Senate, and eventually, he's expected to be promoted to major general, the rank held by the state adjutant.
He'll not only oversee the 7,500-member Guard but oversee the state's responses to disasters.