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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Gianforte Announces Transition Teams For Departments of Commerce, Labor And Corrections

Montana Governor elect Greg Gianforte on Monday announced a joint transition advisory team to identify and review candidates to serve as the next directors for the state Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor and Industry.

The 10 person advisory team includes representatives from the construction, roofing and insurance industries, higher education and present and former leaders of trade associations. A Billings hotel and restaurant owner is also on Gianforte’s COVID-19 transition advisory team.

Gianforte in a statement said Montanans have lost out on good paying jobs, adding, “It’s time to empower Montana workers and create an environment where small businesses thrive.”

Tara Rice, who currently heads the Montana Department of Commerce, was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock in 2019. Brenda Nordlund was appointed acting commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry by Bullock earlier this year.

On Nov. 12 Gianforte announced another transition advisory team to recommend new leadership for the state Department of Corrections (DOC).

That nine person team includes a county sheriff, a judge, several attorneys and commissioners, a major in the Montana Highway Patrol and a member of a juvenile drug treatment court.

Gianforte said incidents of what he called gross mismanagement and lack of transparency have prevented the Department of Corrections from serving Montanans. He said in a statement, “It’s time to change how the DOC does business, from changing the culture to reducing recidivism to improving reentry.”

Current DOC Director Reginald Michael was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock in 2017.

The Republican governor elect recently created a new website calling for applications to fill director positions at all of Montana’s state agencies.

Members of Gianforte’s DOC Transition Advisory Team are:

Randy Brodehl – Flathead County Commissioner

Tony Harbaugh – sheriff of Custer County

Jackie Jones, JD – attorney and former advocate with the Montana County Attorney Association

Steve Lavin – major in the Montana Highway Patrol

Greg Pinski, JD – former Cascade County district court judge; advocate of treatment courts

Bill Slaughter – Granite County Commissioner; former director of the Department of Corrections; former sheriff of Gallatin County

Cory Swanson, JD – Broadwater County Attorney; lieutenant colonel in the Montana National Guard; former deputy attorney general in the Montana Department of Justice

Scott Twito, JD – Yellowstone County Attorney

Melissa Zeiler – probation administrator at Sidney Probation and Parole Administration; team member with the 7th District Juvenile Drug Treatment Court

Members of Gianforte’s Commerce/Labor Transition Advisory Team are:

Andrew Brekke – vice president of Erickson Insurance Group; member of the Montana Insurance Guaranty Association Board of Directors

Della Ehlke – cattle rancher and owner of Montana Hydraulics

Kristen Heck – president and owner of LC Staffing; founder of Loyal Care In-Home Assistance

Christina Quick Henderson – executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance; adjunct instructor at University of Montana College of Business

Misty Kuhl – director of Native American Outreach at Rocky Mountain College; A'aniiih member of the Fort Belknap Indian Community

Tony Martel – president of Martel Construction; former president of the Montana Contractors Association

Derek Swank – executive vice president of Swank Enterprises, a commercial construction company; former president of the Montana Contractors Association

Dexter Thiel – president of Thiel Bros Roofing; founding member and former president of the Montana Roofing Contractors Association

Joe Unterreiner – former president and CEO of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, 1996-2020

Steve Wahrlich – owner of the Best Western Plus ClockTower Inn & Stella’s Kitchen and Baker; member of Montana’s Tourism Advisory Council

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