For state agencies, the change of command in the Department of Administration was probably invisible.
Perry Comeaux retired at year's end, and his deputy, Andrew Clinger, moved up to take over as head of administration and state budget director.
"Legislators, they had a tremendous amount of respect for Perry. They know Perry had integrity and what he told them was the truth," Clinger said. "I hope to earn, over time, that kind of respect."
Clinger signed on in January 2000 and spent four years as Comeaux's chief deputy. He said he learned the importance of not compromising his integrity, whether when working with agencies and the governor or dealing with the Legislature.
"It's important they have that confidence and faith, because you go over there sometimes and you're telling them things they don't want to hear," he said.
One way to develop that confidence, he said, is to continue improving the product his staff takes before the Legislature - the executive budget.
There were a number of uncomfortable moments during the 2005 session as both Clinger and Comeaux had to explain a series of more than 70 corrections made after the budget was presented to committees.
"That was definitely an area of concern," he said. "As a group, we can do a better job putting the budget together than we did last time."
The problems, he said, were undeniable because "everything we do is under scrutiny. Everything is open for inspection, and if we screw up, it's out there. That mistake is handled in a public meeting."
He said he, Comeaux and their analysts have worked on the causes of those problems since the end of the 2005 session. He said the 2007 Legislature will see a better product.
"We'll do a better review internally. I think we've improved the process, and we've got a good crew now."
Clinger said the agency's financial staffs have become more professional in the past few years, and the budget office has done a lot more training. They offer a program called "Budget 101," which is required before an agency staff member gets access to the computerized budget system.
He said it makes the budget division's job much easier if the agencies turn in better budgets initially. That, along with computerizing the budget system, he said, has freed up analysts from a lot of the number-crunching detail work.
"A lot of the tedious calculations we used to do are now done by the system," he said. The result is budget staff analysts have more time to look closer at the programs - especially the new ones - agencies are proposing.
Clinger said the budget office is the center of the action in state government.
"When you're in the budget office, you're in the middle of everything," he said. "There's almost nothing a state agency can do that doesn't come through this office."
He said the best part is in the last couple of months before the Legislature, building the budget, working with the governor to make sure his priorities are covered.
But he said defending the budget to lawmakers can be fun.
"It's your role to go over to the Legislature and educate them about what's in the budget and why it's in the budget."
Clinger, 35, and his wife, Stacie, have three children.
He said he enjoys the challenge of his new job, but that it's not the toughest thing he's done.
"If you think this job is tough, try coaching flag football with 9-, 8-, 7- and even 6-yea-olds. That makes this job a piece of cake."
-- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.