The state’s new Public Access Counselor is Terre Haute native Heather Willis Neal, a former chief of staff to Secretary of State Todd Rokita. Gov. Mitch Daniels designated Neal to replace Karen Davis, whose term as the PAC expired June 30.

Media and access groups were a bit surprised when Karen Davis lost her post as Indiana’s public access counselor in June. The post is a political appointment and there was no guarantee for Davis to have kept her job. Political appointments are, after all, subject to political whims.

What follows is the official release posted by the governor’s office on June 29:

INDIANAPOLIS (June 29, 2007) – Governor Mitch Daniels has appointed Terre Haute native Heather Willis Neal as public access counselor for the state of Indiana.

She succeeds Karen T. Davis whose term expired June 30.

Neal, who earned her law degree from the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, worked for nearly six years in the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State. She first served as director of business services and general counsel for former Secretary of State Sue Anne Gilroy and then, from 2003 to 2005, as chief of staff for Secretary of State Todd Rokita. Most recently, she was the executive director of School Choice Indiana, Inc.

Neal earned her undergraduate degree from Franklin College. Her appointment will be effective on July 1 and will expire on June 30, 2011.

ICOG wishes Davis well and hopes Neal is an effective PAC who is not swayed by undue political influences. Watch for an important survey of PAC opinions that will be completed by ICOG this fall. The survey was funded with a grant from the National Freedom of Information Coalition.k