Prairie Politics

Merrick’s chief of staff leaves for UnitedHealth; Chamber VP takes over

House Speaker Ray Merrick’s chief of staff will be taking a position with UnitedHealth Group, the parent company of one of the state’s KanCare providers, the speaker’s office announced Thursday morning.

Wade Hapgood served as Merrick’s chief of staff during the past two legislative sessions after taking the role in June 2013. He will now serve as vice president of UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest insurance company in the United States and also the parent company of UnitedHealthcare, which has a state contract to provide Medicaid services under the KanCare umbrella.

“I am so proud of the legislative accomplishments Wade helped achieve during his tenure as chief of staff. He played an instrumental role in keeping the House running smoothly, and he is going to bring many important policy development skills to his new role at United,” Merrick said in a statement.

Hapgood will be replaced by Christie Krieghauser, who served as Merrick’s chief of staff during his first session as speaker in 2013 and previously served as chief of staff for Merrick’s predecessor, Mike O’Neal, who is now president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Krieghauser has been working for O’Neal as vice president of public affairs for the chamber since her first stint as Merrick’s chief of staff.

"Christie's extensive relationships, and understanding of the legislative process and unique dynamics within the statehouse make her an effective advisor,” O’Neal said in a statement.

Merrick touted Krieghauser’s wealth of experience. She previously served on Merrick’s staff when he was majority leader of the House in 2007.