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Pence’s chief lobbyist resigns position

– Gov. Mike Pence’s chief lobbyist is leaving her post after just seven months – and weeks after her name became embroiled in an education scandal that already claimed her former boss.

Heather Willis Neal is joining Limestone Strategies – a political and communications consulting company in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C. – as president of its public affairs practice in September. State rules allow her to immediately lobby the legislature but she must wait one year before lobbying the executive branch.

The announcement was made just hours after the Journal Gazette reported Neal might be on her way out. Neal was Tony Bennett’s chief of staff last year when the former Superintendent of Public Instruction allegedly scrambled to change the A-F accountability grade of a charter school. In one email about Christel House possibly not receiving an A grade, Neal responded to Bennett, “Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved.”

While Bennett resigned his post as Florida’s education commissioner and several other staffers who followed Bennett there also left, Neal had been floating under the radar in Pence’s office.

"During the early days of our administration, Heather Neal played a pivotal role in developing and enacting policies in our Roadmap for Indiana, and her tireless efforts made a difference for families, small businesses and family farms across the Hoosier state, Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Cam Savage, co-founder and principal at Limestone, said Neal’s credentials are unrivaled as a leader on just about every key issue.

“She is an even more extraordinary person and we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome her to lead our new practice,” he said.

Savage also noted he has been trying to get Neal to come work with the company for months if not years. Neal’s accomplishments during the 2013 legislative session include advocating for an across-the-board income tax cut as well as changes to education and workforce policies.

nkelly@jg.net

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