HELENA — Incoming Republican Secretary of State Corey Stapleton announced several appointments Tuesday.

Stapleton, who takes office Jan. 2, was elected in November, beating Democrat Monica Lindeen, who was the state auditor, with 56 percent of the vote. Lindeen was term-limited from running for auditor, as was outgoing Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, a Democrat.

"There's no more important function than picking good people," he told a small group in the second floor of the Capitol.

At the press conference, Stapleton said he would try to create consistency in Montana's elections and streamline business services offered by the Secretary of State.

He added that he "anticipates having a good working relationship" with Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's office. The governor and secretary of state's offices and the Legislature are the three main tenants of the Capitol.

He added that the election results show "the people have spoken and we have a mandate to do things now."

Stapleton said he's excited to work with the Legislature, which is controlled by Republican majorities in the House and Senate. That body convenes Jan. 2.

Stapleton said he wants to introduce legislation to remove ambiguity in how the state would fill a vacant U.S. House seat, something that is expected to happen after recently re-elected U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., was nominated as Secretary of the Interior by Republican president-elect Donald J. Trump.

Stapleton estimated holding an election to fill Zinke's seat could cost $2 million.

He also said he wants to look at the popularity of absentee voting by mail and ways to capitalize on that, and explore standardizing how satellite voting offices are added.

Staff appointments include:

— Christi Jacobsen, chief of staff: She was most recently the central services division administrator for the Department of Justice. She previously worked as central services administrator for the state auditor’s office. She has a master's in public administration from the University of Montana.

— Stephanie Hess, chief policy adviser: Hess served as a representative for HD 28 and lost re-election to Democrat Jacob Bachmeier in November. She was elections specialist to the Secretary of State’s Office from 2007-2009 and is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University.

— Derek Oestreicher, elections director: Oestreicher has a law degree from UM. He has worked with Davis, Hatley, Haffeman & Tighe, P.C., a civil litigation firm in Great Falls.

— Susan Ames, office manager: Ames is returning to the Secretary of State’s office after working as executive assistant to former Secretary of State Brad Johnson. She also worked for Denny Rehberg when he was lieutenant governor, Gov. Marc Racicot and Gov. Judy Martz.

— Harlan Wells, business services director: Wells comes to the office from the Missoula Housing Authority, where he was development coordinator. Wells was also elected to the Missoula City Council in November  2015, and is a graduate of UM. The Missoulian reported Tuesday that Wells resigned his council seat.

— Morgan Darlington, communications director: Darlington is a graduate of Montana State University. She has worked for both the U.S. House and Senate.

— Julie Lake, human resource director: Lake, a graduate of MSU, was previously human resource generalist for the Montana Department of Justice.

— Will Selph, project manager: Selph has worked for U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, and was part of the recent effort to re-elect Zinke. Selph is a graduate of UM.

— Jeff Hindoien, chief legal counsel: Hindoien’s private practice has been focused on providing counsel and representation to Montana school districts in all aspects of public school and governmental operations. Hindoien is a Great Falls native and a graduate of MSU and the University of Wyoming College of Law.


Reporter covering statewide issues for The Billings Gazette.