Khouri will be the state's 44th treasurer and said he'll spend his first 30 days in office listening to taxpayers, employees, business groups and others before mapping out a concrete direction on where he wans to take the Department of Treasury.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses recently criticized the Department as not being as customer friendly as other branches of state government.
Khouri said he's familiar with this criticism, but reiterated that he wants to gather information before promising any wholesale changes, saying he wants to "listen before I act."
Khouri, 61, was the chief deputy treasurer from 1991-97 under former state Treasurer Doug Roberts in the Gov. John Engler administration. He said he's retiring from DTE next month and looking forward to serving at least until the end of Gov. Rick Snyder's second term.
"I'm not sure I would have done it, if it wasn't this governor at this time," Khouri said. "He's shown a willingness to take on issues that have either been ignored for years and years or have been punted. And that willingness to take on the big challenges and leave a legacy was important."
The quick switch involving Clinton and Khouri has been in the works for the last three weeks, Khouri said. He served in Snyder's transition team and has been talking with the Governor's team off and on since. Administration officials say Clinton made it known he was interested in serving in state government for Snyder's first term, but was ready to return to the private sector after that.
The move comes after Clinton served about 18 months as Treasurer, coming to the department after serving as the head of what was then called the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR). He replaced Snyder's original treasurer, Andy Dillon, who left for the private sector amid some personal issues.
His last day will be April 17.
Prior to his tenure in state government, Clinton was the president and CEO of East Lansing-based medical insurance provider American Physicians Capital, Inc. He was the chief actuary for the Michigan Insurance Bureau in the 1980s.
It was not disclosed exactly where Clinton will be landing, however he apparently pledged to serve in the administration for Snyder's first term, which he has done.
"Kevin served the state with honor and distinction as a key part of our team, dealing with many tough challenges including helping financially distressed cities and significant tax policy changes," Snyder said. "We are sorry to lose him, but I'm confident he'll continue to bring great value to our state with his return to the insurance and financial industry."
Meanwhile, Khouri, of Plymouth, is returning to Treasury after serving as Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at DTE Energy in Detroit, where he oversaw governmental and regulatory relations, community affairs and communications.
Khouri also served as Vice President and Treasurer at DTE and a vice president of Public Sector Consultants, where he focused on economic development, public infrastructure, and state and local tax policy. In the 1990s, Khouri was the state's chief deputy treasurer and chief economist of the Senate Fiscal Agency.
He's also worked for the Congressional budget office.
"Nick's expertise in tax policies and financial issues will be a great asset as we continue working to reinvent state government," Snyder said. "His strong track record of proven service in both the private and public sectors will be essential in this critical state role that directly works with and impacts Michiganders, communities and businesses."
Khouri presently chairs the state's Investment Advisory Council. He will start as Treasurer April 20. The Senate has the power to reject the appointment, but since Snyder has taken office, the Republican-led Senate has not visibly used that power on any of his appointees.
According to the Governor's office, Khouri and Clinton will be working together to ensure a "smooth, seamless transition."
Clinton will not be on the state payroll after his final day on April 17, Khouri said. This was an issue when Dillon stepped down in 2013, when he stayed on the state payroll for three months after his departure.
Chuck Hadden of the Michigan Manufacturers Association called Khouri a "great choice."
"I'm surprised they were able to get him away from DTE," Hadden said. "He's very trustworthy, very knowledgeable . . . a very, very smart guy,"
The Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) took a swing at Khouri by noting he is a registered lobbyist.
"Putting a registered lobbyist in charge of all taxpayer dollars at the Department of Treasury is no way to create public trust in government, and certainly underscores the urgency of acting on Democrats' governments accountability legislation," said MDP Chair Lon Johnson.