Get to know Allie Bones, the new governor's chief of staff
Bones -- a social worker, Bengals fan and Enneagram 3 -- will lead the Hobbs administration.
Gov. Katie Hobbs and her No. 2 are both social workers, a stark contrast to the business-focused administration that came before them.
Allie Bones, Hobbs’ chief of staff, will serve as a go-to for the Governor’s Office and the agencies that report to it, making her one of the most powerful employees in state government.
Bones, who served as Hobbs’ assistant secretary of state under Hobbs, was tapped for the position quickly after Hobbs won the governorship, with the governor praising her ability to work across the aisle. “With Allie on my team, we’ve always gotten the job done,” Hobbs said after hiring Bones.
Bones first came to Arizona from Cincinnati in 1996 as a student at the University of Arizona. Since leaving social work, she has toiled in public policy, moving from roles as a lobbyist for nonprofits to working for the government. Her foundation in social work affects how she sees government and the approaches she takes on the job.
For now, though, she’s brand new to the chief of staff position.
“It's just a lot of meetings and getting things organized right now,” she said.
We caught up with Bones to get to know her more and hear about her vision for the Ninth Floor. The interview has been edited and condensed.
What does a chief of staff do?
Well, I think I'm still figuring that out. But from what I can tell, the chief of staff is really here to help be a traffic controller for all of the staff of the Governor's Office, as well the larger departments and agencies throughout the administration. So just really making sure that we have a team on board that can work on the priorities of the governor, that everybody has everything that they need, and help support our agenda moving forward. … It’s really just focusing on what are those priority areas that we want to try and have an impact on here in this administration.
Does that include staffing?
We’re still working on it. I think probably the most notable is the Office of Resiliency, since we announced that in the state of the state, we still have to fill those positions. There'll be a director and then policy advisers for water, land, natural resources and energy. We're still hiring in constituent services. We want to hire a northern Arizona office, we have a southern Arizona office. It won't be exactly the same, but having staff in northern Arizona is important to us and having that rural focus. And we're still filling some of those cabinet positions as well.
How do you think a Hobbs administration will be most different from former Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration?
If it hasn't become obvious yet, having a social worker as a governor versus a businessman is very different. Ducey famously ran government at the speed of business and really was focused on “government at work,” if you will. I would say the Hobbs administration is going to be largely focused on a government that works for the people. So how are we ensuring that all of our agencies are equipped with the resources, the technology, the personnel, the expertise to be able to perform and meet the needs of the constituents that they serve? And we'll be doing that across all of our different agencies. We're in the process now of meeting with everyone, getting to know them, getting to know their staff, doing an assessment and evaluation to make sure that they all have a sense of what our priorities are and how we're going to move those forward. Our administration and styles are very different. We're really going to be focusing on the people of Arizona and how government can best serve their needs.
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You, like the governor, were a social worker. Is that something that you and Hobbs have bonded over? You’ve been working together for a long time now.
We actually met both working in the domestic violence field over 20 years ago. She was working in the domestic violence shelter, Sojourner Center. I was a public policy advocate for the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence. That's where we met and formed our relationship. I think we both look at social work as a means of evaluating and solving problems, like figuring out what is happening where there is a challenge and what we need to do to address that challenge. We both look at things very much from a systems perspective and understand that there are things that we do that make accessing services and support harder or accessing government harder — whether it's getting a license from Game and Fish or getting your child support payments handled with the Department of Economic Services and everything in between. We want to look at these things from a holistic perspective and figure out how we are making sure that everybody is getting their needs met.
When you first went into social work, did you think that you would be in an administration role at some point?
This is the dream job for any social worker who goes into macro practice who is really looking to make systems change. Did I imagine that this is where my career path would take me? Definitely not. I started out doing public policy work, advocacy, lobbying for domestic violence and homelessness issues. I took jobs in government because I looked around and saw all the mentors that I aspired to be, and every single one of them had worked in government. I took jobs in the Napolitano administration, worked in the Governor's Office as well as the Department of Economic Services, and then went back into the nonprofit world and really thought I would end up staying there until then-Secretary of State Hobbs asked me to join her administration. I see this as an opportunity to really impact systems in the way that we are serving people and make people's lives better.
When you met Gov. Hobbs, did you think one day you would both be on the Ninth Floor?
No, I never, absolutely not, could not have imagined that. We were both so new at the time, when we were lobbying the Legislature for the very first time in January 2001. Things were obviously very different in the state back then.
In what ways have you seen the state change since then?
We've seen over the last decade or so a focus on economy and jobs, which is great and obviously needed and necessary and an important function of government, but less so in trying to help ensure people who really truly need government are able to access the services and able to find the support that they need. That's an area where we want to have some attention and focus, whether it's in Corrections or Department of Child Services, DES, Housing, AHCCCS, there's going to be an intention and focus on those areas.
There's a lot more public feuding right now over things that could probably be figured out in private. How will you and the administration handle that? How will you navigate building relationships when there's a lot of public politicking?
Everyone is still navigating this new normal and trying to figure out how we're going to navigate this Republican Legislature with a Democratic governor. Time will tell. I think that there will be conversations that do start here.
Do you think it will get a budget in time this year?
It is certainly our hope that we will get a budget, and we don't see any reason for us to be here past June or to have any kind of government shutdown. If that happens, it's going to clearly be not because we aren't willing to sit down and negotiate. We're here and we're motivated to get work done. We want to see the Legislature focus on the aggregate expenditure limit and getting that lifted, making sure that the schools have certainty for their budgets past March 1. And once that's done, we want to start sitting down and working with the Legislature on a negotiated budget. What happened in January with the presentation of the executive budget is what happens every single year when the executive presents their budget: It is a starting point of a negotiation. We look forward to working with members of the Legislature who are willing to have a serious conversation about a bipartisan budget deal.
You had tweeted about one bill in particular, saying it will be vetoed if it gets to the governor's desk. That's something we don't usually see, because Ducey would rarely weigh in on bills in advance. Do you expect that you and the governor will use your platforms in that sort of way, to put the public kibosh on certain things?
Yeah, where it's appropriate and where it makes sense. We’re in a very different age of communication now obviously, in what gets put out on social media. It's an opportunity and a way for us to make it clear what they should be spending their time on. It’s not worth anyone's time if they know it's gonna get vetoed when they get up here, but it's their prerogative.
You were assistant secretary of state during a super turbulent time for elections. What was that like? How did you manage that role during such an intense time?
To me, it was about having a really strong and cohesive team that all had each other's backs and supported one another. I don't think that it would have been possible to really withstand all of that pressure and vitriol and threats and everything that was coming at us if we didn't have a strong team, and that really was from the secretary on down through really all of the staff of the Secretary of State's Office, but especially the elections division. They really formed a strong bond and they were really a fun group and supported one another. We, in the executive team, really had very strong support for one another. I really think that that support for each other, encouraging folks to take time when they needed it, and just managing through what was always really difficult things that we were dealing with, was just how we got through really.
Do you have any books or podcasts or thinkers that you turn to when you're looking at how government should work or your philosophies on that kind of stuff?
I go to my social work roots, if you will, in terms of understanding systems and thinking of things as a system that has different parts to it, but at its core is made up of humans and making sure that you have the right people in place and that they have the right skills and abilities to lead other people. I'm really into understanding people's personality through the Enneagram. I think that's a really interesting way of understanding people and how they handle certain situations, whether they're feeling stressed or feeling good about something and understanding how people show up in the world. I'm a three.
What do you do for fun?
I have two kids and my husband of 22 years. We've been together since high school. And we like to travel, we like to camp, we like to go boating. And I'm a huge sports fan. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that. I'm a diehard Wildcats fan, as well as a Cardinals fan. It'll be Diamondbacks season soon. I'm a huge Bengals fan. I'm originally from Cincinnati, so that's kind of my team right now.
We spoke to Allie before the NFL playoffs, where the Bengals got knocked out by the Kansas City Chiefs. Apologies to Allie and all other Bengals fans!
IMHO, (ok, maybe not so humble) I think if we all give this new administration a little time and space we will, in the balance, like the change in style and philosophy. I, too, know and worked with Gov. Hobbs when she was at Sojourner and I was a nurse practitioner/director of a clinic that provided care to her clients. She has not forgotten her social work roots and focus on people, unlike another former social worker I could mention.