Denise Davis (pictured, left), Straus’ chief of staff, and Lisa Kaufman (pictured, right), director of policy and budget and special counsel to the speaker, both say they haven’t scheduled their last days at work, but they will possibly be in the spring of 2012.
When asked why she was leaving, Davis replied, “I think it’s 20 years in government, two children — one in high school — and years that are really important to me.”
As chief of staff, Davis supervises the operations of Straus’ entire office, including the administrative, legislative and member-relations functions. She says she works more than 80 hours per week, and “[I]t’s a 24-hour-per-day job.”
She says she may re-enter private practice but she hasn’t had much time to think about her next steps, because she’s busy working on Straus’ interim charges for Legislative committees. Previously, Davis spent about 10 months in the corporate section of Baker Botts in Austin.
When asked why she was leaving, Kaufman answered, “I need more balance in my life. And it has been a real pleasure and honor and privilege to work for the speaker . . . but I have kids who are teenagers who need a little more attention as far as balance, not working a million hours per week.”
Kaufman oversees 15 staffers in Straus’ office who handle policy issues like education, taxes, insurance and more. She’s also in charge of budgetary matters. She says she’s still weighing her options regarding what she’ll do next, but she wants to practice law and possibly do legislative consulting.
Davis explains there’s no direct relation between herself and Kaufman leaving at the same time, except, “When you get to this level, it’s normal to have some turnover in the Capitol.”
Straus spokeswoman Tracy Young emailed a statement from Straus about Davis and Kaufman, which reads in part, "We have weathered two tough sessions and achieved great results under very challenging circumstances. I will always be grateful that they were at my side during that time, and I know when they leave they'll only be a phone call away."
-- Angela Morris