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Ivey appoints Garner as communications director, promotes two comms staffers

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced the appointment of Leah Garner as her office’s communications director and the promotion of two members of her communications staff.

Garner comes to the governor’s office from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), where she served as director of governmental affairs and advocacy and has recently been assisting with the organization’s media efforts.

This is not her first stint in communications leadership for the state, as Garner spent time working in communications at the Alabama Department of Homeland Security and for then-Governor Robert Bentley’s office prior to her time at BCA.

Similar to Ivey, Garner’s career began in the classroom. She was a social studies teacher in Tuscaloosa before entering into governmental affairs and communications work.

Her appointment to Ivey’s staff is timely, coming a day after the start of the “Take the Lead, Alabama” initiative intended to raise support for SB 397’s referendum on the March 2020 primary ballot. In addition to her background in the classroom, Garner is well known for recently serving as the BCA’s liaison to the Business and Education Alliance of Alabama (BEA) and for her advocacy for education issues in the state.

Garner earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama.

“Leah will be a strong addition to my Administration, and I am confident she will effectively lead the Communications Office,” Ivey said in a statement. “From her time as a teacher to her wide range of experience in state government, Leah has a unique perspective and a true heart for service.”

Ivey also announced two internal promotions within the governor’s communications office.

Gina Maiola will now serve as press secretary, having been deputy press secretary. Additionally, Lori Jhons will assume the position of director of digital media relations, having been deputy director of digital media relations.

“Gina and Lori are two outstanding young women who have demonstrated their talents and professionalism during their time in the Governor’s Office,” Ivey added. “I’m pleased to see both of them gain added responsibilities with these changes in our communications shop.”

All three staff changes are effective Monday, June 17.

The position of communications director for the governor has been vacant since the resignation of Joshua Pendergrass in late July 2018. The position of press secretary has been vacant since the resignation of Daniel Sparkman in April of this year.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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