MI State Senator Rick Outman hires former boss, Senator Judy Emmons, as staffer

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Rick Outman Judy Emmons
Senator Rick Outman (left) and former Senator Judy Emmons at a 2015 announcement. Image: Michigan GOP pressroom.

After previously serving as a district liaison for Michigan State Senator Judy Emmons, Rick Outman was elected to take over his boss’ seat in November.

When it came time to choose a district liaison for his own staff, Outman decided there could be no better person for the role than his previous employer: Judy Emmons.

Musical chairs in the Michigan State Senate

Rick Outman was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2010. Six years later, thanks to term limits, the Republican House member found himself out of a job.

Outman was not out of work for long, however. His fellow Republican, State Senator Judy Emmons, hired him onto her staff as district liaison with a $69,500 taxpayer funded salary.

Outman later resigned from his position with Emmons, but only to run as a candidate for the State Senate in her district himself. Thanks to term limits, Outman’s boss could not run for reelection herself.

In November, Outman won the election for Senate District 33 (which is in the same area of central Michigan as his former House seat). When it came time to hiring his own district liaison, he turned to the woman who had once helped him out when he was in a similar position: Judy Emmons.

Rick Outman defends hiring

When contacted by the Detroit News, Outman defended his decision to hire his former boss back onto the public payroll with a $50,000 salary. Emmons, he said, had a “tremendous amount of experience that she brings to the table and the kind of common-sense approach she has on issues.”

Senators are not allowed to hire direct family members, and must get permission to hire other relatives, but there is nothing to prevent the hiring of anyone else (including former employers or Senators) in the Senate Rules.

Far from objecting to the arrangement, Republican leadership in the Michigan Senate has endorsed the idea of hiring former members.

Citing their “unique level of experience,” a spokesperson for Republican Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said, “They’re certainly going to know the districts very well, and you’ll see they’re often used as a district representative.”

Democratic leaders have also raised no objections. According to a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, he “doesn’t have a problem” with the hiring.

Emmons stays relevant to local voters

Hiring Judy Emmons may be about more than just having experienced staff, or providing a former employer with a public salary. By continuing to work on issues for her former district, Emmons can stay relevant to the voters in the area.

When speaking to the News, Outman admitted he had gained a similar advantage when he joined Emmons’ staff.

“People became more familiar with me because I spent a lot of time in district meetings with township officials and constituents,” he said. “It made me familiar to people in the part of the district that wasn’t part of my former House district. So, you know, certainly helped.”

Staying relevant to local concerns may help Emmons in the same way in the future. The current incumbent in Outman’s previous House district, James Lower, becomes term-limited himself in just four years.

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