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With overseas trip, Gov. Snyder signals he’s ready to talk about something other than Flint

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Governor Snyder left for Europe this weekend in a quest for jobs and economic investment for Michigan but he’s also heading overseas in an effort to reclaim the two and half years he has left in office.

Since January, Snyder has basically been the governor of Flint (not that Flint residents are too happy about that).

But, in recent weeks, he’s beginning to make the rounds and has brought back much of his old stump speech - talking up the state’s improved jobless rate, workforce development, and reminding people of the “lost decade” before the economic recovery began (something both Snyder and President Obama take credit for).

Office shakeup

Now, it’s not like the governor can ignore Flint. When he does talk about the city, he treads carefully. The crisis is much more than just another problem that can be easily fixed. There are criminal investigations under way and various lawsuits.

But, he’s now letting folks know he’s got more that he wants to talk about. And it’s not just about reinventing Michigan, it’s also reinventing his administration. There’s been an executive office shakeup to try and make sure state departments do a better job of communicating with each other.

He’s even hired a cabinet wrangler, someone to make sure department heads don’t retreat into their own silos.

“Brand” management

Governor Rick Snyder is working at reinventing Governor Rick Snyder.

We have seen that this governor is not always a strong crisis manager. He’s much more of a planner. So it’s a skill set he’s developing on the job.

And he’s been handed a lot of these situations: the Flint water crisis, the Detroit Public Schools financial crisis that a state-appointed emergency manager hasn’t been able to fix, patient neglect and abuse at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, big problems with privatizing prison food services, and, most recently, an audit that found the system for detecting unemployment benefits fraud is broken.

He is trying to fix the fact that this second term has not been good to him.

Overseas

This European trip signals a change for his administration. Just a few months ago, the governor scrubbed a trade trip to the Middle East to show he was focused on the Flint water catastrophe. The fact that he’s going now is a signal of sorts, that he’s hoping to start a new chapter.

But, of course, he can’t escape Flint, even in Europe. He left less than a week after his promise to drink Flint water for 30 days (a promise he says he’s putting on hold during his travels but will finish when he returns).

Something, once again, getting in the way of his efforts to get in front of a crisis.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Radio's Director of Content. In that role, Clark oversees all content and programming on the state's largest and most-listened to public radio station - including the station's award-winning newsroom, podcasts, commentary and daily news-magazine Stateside.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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