Chairman’s Selection: Exit.

The man who brought the Pennsylvania state store system to new levels of customer service and gross income said good-bye this week.

Jonathan Newman was famous across the country for his leveraging of Pennsylvania’s position as the number one buyer of wines and spirits, ahead of Costco and Wal-Mart. Newman’s negotiations with winemakers in their vineyards brought his Chairman’s Selections to local liquor stores at prices well below retail.

Here’s an appreciation from the San Francisco Chronicle’s W. Blake Gray.

With Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board profits at about $90 million a year,  Gov. Ed Rendell couldn’t resist bring in a pol to “oversee” Newman’s operation.

Here’s his resignation letter:

“I am resigning as Chairman and as a Member of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board effective January 12, 2007. I will certainly make myself available after that date to assure a smooth and seamless transition. I have enjoyed my 7-1/2 year tenure, the last 4-1/2 years as Chairman of the Board. I would like to sincerely thank all the hard working employees of the Board who have taken this Agency to the next level in customer service and promoted social responsibility. The substantial increases in revenue and record profits generated over the last few years have benefited all taxpayers in the Commonwealth.

“There are so many accomplishments that I am proud of that have fundamentally changed consumer perception of the PLCB and the vibrant retail shopping experience we have created. However, it has become abundantly clear to me during the past few weeks that this Administration is adamant in standing by its decision in hand picking a CEO without any true process whatsoever that is consistent with transparency and good government. There was no public discussion about whether the decision to bring in a CEO was appropriate, no national search process to find the best qualified individual, and no opportunity for public comment or media scrutiny before this rushed decision was completed. I am hopeful that the Pennsylvania legislature will review this entire process and determine if it is appropriate for the Commonwealth and the future direction of government.

“Since the Board’s statutorily mandated full time responsibilities have been abrogated and the Board will only provide regulatory and policy authority, I do not believe I can remain at the Board and justify taking my $65,572 salary from the taxpayers. Part-time board members from other control states like Oregon receive per diems for participation in board meetings that would now certainly be more appropriate in Pennsylvania given the fact that the day to day and other important responsibilities have been removed.

“I would like to thank the citizens of this Commonwealth and express my appreciation for all the well wishes I have received.”

He’s not just blowing smoke about the many accomplishments, which include Sunday sales and making premium stores into friendly places with lots of suggestions on buying wine.  

Bad news for people who live here, good news for the political class that screws us because it can.

Here’s the P-N story.

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