HELENA (AP) – Six of Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s cabinet members will be leaving the administration before his second term begins next month, and replacements have been found for two of them so far, the Democratic governor said Friday.
The governor thanked the departing appointees for their service in a news conference at the state Capitol.
“Every large organization goes through change, and the state of Montana is no different,” Bullock said.
High-level staffing changes are not unusual when officials are re-elected, and Bullock had been in conversations with all of his appointed directors since last month about whether they wanted to serve another four years.
However, six departures is a high number compared to Bullock’s predecessor, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer. After Schweitzer was re-elected in 2008, only two cabinet members were replaced for his second term.
The departures announced Friday include the leaders of three of the largest state agencies: Richard Opper of the Department of Public Health and Human Services; Jeff Hagener of Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Mike Batista of the Department of Corrections.
Sheila Hogan, who leads the Department of Administration, will replace Opper at the health department. The corrections department’s deputy director, Loraine Wodnick, will become interim director until a permanent replacement is named.
The other departures are Meg O’Leary of the Department of Commerce, Ron deYong of the Department of Agriculture and John Rogers of the Office of Economic Development.
Bullock spokesman Tim Crowe said the governor hopes to name their replacements, and Hagener’s, by the end of the month.
Bullock also announced that John Lewis will take Hogan’s former job as the head of the Department of Administration. Lewis was an aide to former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus who ran unsuccessfully for Montana’s U.S. House seat in 2014.
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