The NSW Liberal Party has finally settled on a new state director: John Howard's former principal private secretary, Tony Nutt.
Mr Nutt, who – as Victoria's Liberal Party director – oversaw former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu's election victory, will be endorsed by the NSW state executive this week – almost six months after Mark Neeham left to join lobbying firm Crosby Textor.
The party tried but failed to lure Channel Nine executive Scott Briggs into the role following Mr Neeham's departure last November.
Mr Nutt, who became Mr Baillieu's chief of staff, was later cleared by Victoria's anti-corruption commission over his support for a ministerial adviser forced out of his job for undermining former police commissioner Simon Overland.
He has most recently been assisting Prime Minister Tony Abbott by overseeing the Coalition's "transition to government" including the vetting of key staff.
Mr Nutt has been described by former Howard adviser Grahame Morris as "exceptionally good at detail".
The lack of a state director has been of growing concern to sections of the NSW Liberal Party given the next state election is in March. The state director plays a key role in campaign strategy.
It is understood the resignation of Barry O'Farrell as premier hastened the appointment. While Mr O'Farrell, as a former state director himself, was not overly concerned about a lack of a replacement for Mr Neeham, new Premier Mike Baird has approached it with some urgency.
Mr Baird has been in discussions with Mr Abbott about Mr Nutt's appointment since his appointment as Premier 10 days ago.
Mr Nutt also worked as a political adviser alongside Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos when Mr Howard was prime minister.
Senator Sinodinos stood aside as assistant treasurer last month after giving evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption's inquiry into infrastructure company Australian Water Holdings, of which he is a former chairman.