Who From Michigan Is In and Who’s Out as Bidenites Replace Trumpers

A new presidency means Michiganders are heading to D.C. — or coming home
Jennifer Granholm - Biden Administration
Jennifer Granholm photograph by Jim Watson/AFP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Who’s In:

Jennifer Granholm

Michigan’s first female governor is President Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Energy. Surprisingly, it’s the veteran Democrat’s first Cabinet appointment. She’s spent the decade since leaving Lansing teaching law at UC Berkeley and appearing as a pundit on CNN. Granholm is expected to use the role to push automakers to build more and better electric cars. 

Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan’s second female governor isn’t going anywhere – yet? – but her deep personal and political ties to the new president prompted Biden to hand-pick her as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. She garnered an outsized profile in 2020 as a foil for Trump and target of an elaborate kidnapping plot; now she’s hoping to leverage a friendly administration for Michigan.

Deanne Criswell 

The northern Michigan native is Biden’s pick to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Criswell, whose prior job was heading New York City’s emergency management department, oversaw the city’s response to COVID-19. She’d be the first woman to run FEMA.

Robert Hampshire

An associate professor at University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy focusing on the societal impact of autonomous and connected vehicles, Hampshire is off to D.C. to serve as principal deputy assistant secretary for research and technology in the Department of Transportation. His portfolio will include overseeing transportation research centers at 40 universities across the country.

Arthur Jemison 

The longtime Mike Duggan aide is now deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Community Planning and Development for Biden’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. Jemison has taken the lead on housing issues for Duggan since 2014. 

Sam Bagenstos

The longtime U-M law professor left Ann Arbor in January to be general counsel to the White House Office of Management and Budget. Bagenstos was a failed Democratic nominee for Michigan Supreme Court in 2018, served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division under Barack Obama, and was chair of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

Michael Barr

The dean of U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy was tapped by Biden as chief of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an independent bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department. Barr, who helped write the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, will regulate the nation’s biggest lending banks. His appointment drew ire from some progressives, including new Senate Banking Committee chair Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who preferred a California law professor viewed as less cozy with Wall Street.

Who’s Out:

Betsy DeVos

The controversial education secretary from Grand Rapids, one of five original Trump Cabinet appointees still on the job at the start of 2021, resigned 13 days before her tenure would have expired. She wrote in her resignation letter to the former president that the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot was “the inflection point” for her because “there is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation.”

David T. Fischer

The chairman and CEO of The Suburban Collection in Troy, was nominated to be ambassador to Morocco in November 2017 after donating $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, but then had to wait until December 2019 to be confirmed by the Senate. Fischer spent just a year in Rabat before Trump’s loss led to his resignation.

John Rakolta Jr.

The former CEO of the Detroit-based construction firm Walbridge and a Bloomfield Hills resident, Rakolta served from October 2019 through the end of Trump’s term as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Rakolta also gave $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee.

Kenneth Braithwaite

The longtime Naval officer and businessman from Livonia first served two years as ambassador to Norway before being appointed as Secretary of the Navy until Trump’s departure from the White House.

Pete Hoekstra

The former congressman from Holland served three years as ambassador to The Netherlands, the country of his birth. His tenure was notable for an incident in December 2017 after his Senate confirmation but before his official arrival in Amsterdam when a Dutch journalist raised questions about false claims he made regarding violence by Islamic extremists in the Netherlands. Hoekstra called it “fake news,” but apologized after being
confronted with video of him making the remarks. He also then denied he had used the term, “fake news.”

Joseph Cella

A Richmond native and resident of Augusta Township near Ypsilanti, Cella was ambassador to Fiji, Kirbati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvala from November 2019 until the end of the Trump administration. Cella, who in 2015 said Trump was “manifestly unfit” to be president, reversed that view in 2016 and served as a key campaign liaison with Catholic voters. He declined a post in the White House, opting instead for a foreign service gig.

Other notables:

Ronna Romney McDaniel

The granddaughter of Gov. George Romney and former Michigan GOP chairwoman was handpicked by Trump as the first woman to chair the Republican National Committee in more than 40 years. Despite the party losing control of the White House and Senate in the 2020 election, McDaniel was unopposed in her January bid to remain chair for another two-year term.

Andy Levin

The second-term congressman from Berkley was on the short list to be selected by Biden as Secretary of Labor. His stock fell, though, when Democrats surprisingly lost seats in the House in the 2020 election. That made their majority too thin to risk another Democratic seat after Biden chose members of Congress for three other appointments.

Barbara McQuade

The former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan under Obama served on the Biden transition team. During that time, she stopped appearing on MSNBC as a legal analyst. She’s back on TV again and still teaching law at the University of Michigan, but there’s speculation that Biden might ask her to take her old job back or appoint her to the federal bench. A mere 90 minutes after Biden was inaugurated, District Judge Victoria Roberts, a Clinton appointee for the Eastern District, announced she would take senior status, which means semi-retirement for her and a vacancy for … McQuade?

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Steve Friess is news and features editor at Hour Detroit and a contributing writer for Newsweek. A Long Island native who earned a journalism degree at Northwestern University, Friess worked at newspapers in Rockford, Illinois, Las Vegas, and South Florida before launching a freelance career in Beijing, China, where he served as chief China correspondent for USA Today. After his return to the U.S. in 2003, he settled in Las Vegas, where he covered the gambling industry and the American Southwest regularly for The New York Times, Playboy, The New Republic, Time, Portfolio, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, New York magazine, and many others. During that time, he created and co-hosted two successful and groundbreaking podcasts, the celebrity-interview show The Strip and the animal affairs program The Petcast. In 2011-12, Friess landed a Knight-Wallace Fellowship for mid-career journalists at the University of Michigan. That was followed by a stint as a senior writer covering the intersection of technology and politics at Politico in Washington, D.C., In 2013, he returned permanently to Ann Arbor, where he now lives with his husband, son, and three Pomeranians. He tweets at @SteveFriess and can be reached at sfriess@hour-media.com.