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MLC Capitol Spotlight: An Interview with Shelly Edgerton, Director & Chief Data Systems Officer for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

Oct 14, 2016

Shelly Edgerton was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder as Director in April 2016.  Prior to joining the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Ms. Edgerton dedicated twenty-seven years of service to the state Legislature where she served most recently in the capacity of Deputy Senate Majority Counsel in the Senate Majority Policy Office. She also previously held titles of Assistant Senate Majority Counsel and Chief of Staff for Senator Dave Honigman. She earned her bachelor's degree and a Master of Public Administration degree from Western Michigan University. She went on to receive her juris doctor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

What has been your career path and how did it bring you to your current role?

My career path has been one of public service, starting with my early internship and then a paid page position in the House of Representatives under former Representative/Speaker Paul Hillegonds.  I advanced my position to a law clerk in the Michigan Senate while attending Cooley Law School.  From there, I was chief of staff for then Representative and Senator Dave Honigman (West Bloomfield).  In the early 90’s, I left the Honigman office to work in the Senate Majority Counsel office under Fred Hall where I ultimately became the deputy senate majority counsel before leaving to work with the Snyder administration in LARA.  In my brief tenure with LARA, I became a deputy director shortly after my appointment to head the Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs, replacing retired and long serving Tom Martin.  From a deputy, I became the chief deputy director and data systems officer to now director for LARA.

What step in your career path best prepared you for this job?

While there have been many steps in my career that have prepared me for this position, one that has been consistent in all of my positions is that of the ability to listen, understand the problem, and then seek to find a resolution that works.  Starting in my early legislative days with a two-person office, you were tasked with handling everything.It was important to listen and understand a constituent’s problem and work to find them a solution.  It is no different today as LARA responds to thousands of consumers and business customers and we work to find solutions for them.  

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in this job?

The biggest challenge is understanding the vastness of all the programs that LARA contains throughout the 15 agencies and bureaus, each of which could be a department in itself.  I work to understand those programs in order to better serve our customers.  As most of the bureau directors would say, I am very hands on.

Of all the issues you have worked on, if you had to pick your favorite (not necessarily the biggest issue), what is it and why?

One of my favorite issues to work on is technology.  LARA has been working with a lot of legacy and outdated systems to manage its workflow.  In today’s world when everyone has an expectation of instantaneous service, paper processing no longer works.  Creating a more efficient regulatory system allows our staff and department to make better use of our resources, improves the delivery of services to our customers and is a key to our continued success.  The ability for licensees to print their own licenses and not wait for snail mail is monumental for a governmental agency. 

What has surprised you the most about your current job?

What has surprised me the most in this job is the receptiveness of the employees to advance our goals of improving our customer service with streamlining processes, improving technology and knowing leadership listens to them.  I have truly loved getting to know the employees and each of the programs in this department.  Engaging staff and constantly seeking their input has reaffirmed my belief that the 2,000 staff members at LARA are committed to public service and work hard to protect consumers and grow the economy.

What one thing would you like people to know about your department/agency that they might not be aware of?

The thing that most people may not realize is how diverse LARA’s regulatory responsibilities are.  The department has oversight of hundreds of license types and over one million individuals and entities, including health professionals and facilities, occupational licenses and liquor licenses.  We are responsible for the state’s administrative hearing system, the securities industry, construction codes, workers’ compensation, worker safety standards, employment relations and services to the blind.  The state fire marshal, Michigan Public Service Commission, Michigan Agency for Energy, the state’s three ethnic commissions and the Office for New Americans are also housed in LARA.

At family gatherings, do they play 20 Questions with you about politics and government or avoid talking politics at all costs?

Having spent most of my career with the legislature, my family still discusses politics and government.  My parents were activists and my father served as a county official for years.  Politics and government are in my blood. 

What are some of your favorite activities to participate in on your free time?

Some of my favorite activities are golf, skiing and traveling.  As any golfer will say, there are times you just want to give up but then you get that birdie or par on a tough hole and it draws you back in to just keep playing. 

Michigan Legislative Consultants is a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, Michigan. Our team of lobbyists and procurement specialists provide a wide range of services for some of the most respected companies in America. For more on MLC, visit www.mlcmi.com or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.