HELENA — Gov.-elect Steve Bullock has tapped four current and former employees from the state Justice Department for his transition team to prepare for being governor in January.
It’s the start of an intense process for Bullock as he decides which department directors will make up his cabinet and top personal staff in his office and that of Lt. Gov.-elect John Walsh.
His team will have to be in place when Bullock takes office in early January and succeeds Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
In an announcement Friday, Bullock, the state’s attorney general, and Walsh appointed Tim Burton as director of transition.
Burton has served as chief of staff and deputy director of the state Justice Department under Bullock since 2009. He was city manager for the city of Helena from 2000-2009 and before that was chief administrative officer for Lewis and Clark County for six years.
The two deputy transition directors are Ali Bovingdon and Kevin O’Brien.
Bovingdon has served as chief deputy attorney general and administrator of the Justice Department’s Legal Services Division since 2009 and worked as an assistant attorney general since 2000. Her primary areas of practice have been defending the state in constitutional litigation and performing legislative and policy work for the department.
O’Brien was Bullock’s campaign manager and previously served as the Justice Department’s communications director and primary spokesman for Bullock as attorney general. He previously was communications director for the Montana Democratic Party and for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.
The scheduling director for the transition team is Siri Smillie, who was deputy campaign manager. She previously was coordinator of the prescription drug abuse prevention program in the Justice Department.
“John and I are assembling a team of talented public servants that will put Montana first and serve our state well,” Bullock said. “We’ve hit the ground running, and I’m excited to get to work.”
The 2011 Legislature appropriated $50,000 to the Department of Administration to pay for the cost of the new governor’s transition, according to Sheryl Olson, the department’s deputy director. Transition staff hires are up to the discretion of the governor-elect within the allowed budget.
The Bullock transition team already has an office, Room 278, just off the rotunda in the Capitol.
Contrary to common belief, a new governor doesn’t get to hire hundreds of people. It’s actually less than 40 initially.
Olson said the governor and lieutenant governor by law can hire up to 20 personal staff for their offices after they are inaugurated. If the Department of Administration approves, that number can go up to 30.
Bullock will appoint 13 people to head departments, plus the budget director, the mental health ombudsman, the director of Indian Affairs, the chief business development officer and two members for Northwest Power and Conservation council.
The salaries of Bullock and Walsh are set under law based on the average of a five-state salary survey that includes Montana. The governor is now paid $108,166, and the lieutenant governor receives $86,362.
The governor will set the salaries for the department directors and other staff appointees. These salaries are exempt from the executive branch broadband pay plan, Olson said.