Governor's chief of staff, Rainwater, leaving

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top aide, Paul Rainwater, surprised even his closest political friends late Tuesday by submitting his resignation.

Rainwater, the governor’s chief of staff, told legislators and other state officials that he plans to pursue opportunities in the private sector. His last day is March 3.

“It has been an honor to serve the Governor,” Rainwater said in a prepared statement. He did not respond to a request for comment extended through the governor’s press office.

The chief of staff is in charge of the policy advisors, strategists and other personnel in the Governor’s Office. He has a close day-to-day working relationship with the state’s chief executive.

A rare holdover from Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s administration, Rainwater was a prominent member of Jindal’s staff. His position as a close aide could be viewed as surprising given that he once worked for Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Jindal and Landrieu generally are at odds on heated political issues.

Rainwater held a number of jobs within the Jindal administration. At different points, he advised the governor on the hurricane recovery, helped manage the daily operations of Jindal’s office and oversaw the state’s operating budget.

The Jindal administration announced Rainwater’s departure Tuesday after word of it began circulating around the State Capitol. Rainwater called legislative leaders ahead of time to give them the news personally.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, said Rainwater notified him by phone Tuesday afternoon that he was leaving the Governor’s Office. Kleckley and Rainwater share Calcasieu Parish roots.

“He always had a challenge, whether it was the (hurricane recovery), he spent a year working for Mary Landrieu, then he comes back and worked through some pretty tough budgets,” Kleckley said.

Rainwater’s resignation comes less than two years before the governor leaves office. Term limits prevent the governor from seeking re-election in 2015.

“We’re on the backside of this two-year term. Jindal’s term limited so people are looking for other opportunities, and I’m assuming the right opportunity came up for Paul,” Kleckley said.

Replacing Rainwater will be Kyle Plotkin, the governor’s assistant chief of staff and communications director. Plotkin is a New Jersey native who worked for state Treasurer John Kennedy’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. He has been with the Jindal administration since 2008.

Michael Reed, Jindal’s deputy communications director, will become communications director. Shannon Bates, the governor’s deputy press secretary, will become deputy communications director.

Plotkin’s salary will jump from $110,000 to $165,880. Rainwater made $204,697. Reed and Bates also will get raises. Reed will move from $80,000 to $90,000 while Bates’ pay will go from $65,000 to $80,000.

In a prepared statement, Jindal characterized Rainwater as a good friend with a strong work ethic.

“He has been here since day one, holding four different positions in the administration, and he has always risen to the occasion no matter what challenge we faced,” the governor said. “From leading our state through multiple storm recoveries to helping make state government more effective and less expensive for taxpayers, he has approached every job with a servant’s heart.”

Rainwater was well liked in state government circles.

Southern University President Ronald Mason said he often discussed the state’s budget with Rainwater and how it would affect Southern.

“I actually enjoyed working with him,” Mason said. “He was a man of his word. He was very helpful to Southern University.”

State Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, said Rainwater represented the Governor’s Office and the state of Louisiana well. “I dealt with him quite a bit. I felt like when Paul told me something I could believe him,” Donahue said.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, described Rainwater as easy to work with, responsive, punctual and prompt. “Paul was a very organized individual,” he said.

Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus leader state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, said Rainwater had a way of building relationships with legislators. She said she does not know Plotkin as well.