CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The business background of Gov. Matt Mead's selection to head the Wyoming Department of Education should be an asset in running a large, complicated agency, officials involved in state education said Thursday.
"From what we heard of the way he runs his businesses it sounds like he has done very well in advancing people and bringing them to their full potential," Scotty Ratliff, vice chairman of the State Board of Education, said. "So I'm really optimistic about what he brings to the state."
Rich Crandall, a Republican Arizona state senator and co-owner of two companies, was appointed director of the agency on Wednesday by Mead. He will oversee an agency that administers a budget of about $1 billion a year and employs about 150 people.
Crandall was among three candidates recommended to Mead by the State Board of Education.
Crandall is president and founder of CN Resource, which specializes in oversight of federal child nutrition programs and also co-owns Crandall Corporate Dietitians, a consulting firm for entities such as hospitals. His education includes a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.
His experience with education has been mostly political.
He was school board president of Mesa Public Schools, the largest district in Arizona with about 64,000 students. In addition, he has served as chairman of education committees in the Arizona Senate and House.
Sen. Hank Coe, chairman of the Wyoming Senate Education Committee, said Crandall was his top choice among the finalists.
"His background in business, his extensive education resume and his legislative experience factored in for me," Coe, R-Cody, said. "This position demands administrative expertise and Mr. Crandall brings that to the table. I look forward to working with Mr. Crandall as we work together to rebuild the WDE, after two years of appalling dysfunction."
Crandall, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate, steps into a department that has been embroiled in controversy involving its previous administrator, state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill.
Mead, a Republican, and the GOP-controlled state Legislature enacted a law this past winter that replaced the statewide elected superintendent of public instruction as head of the department with a director appointed by the governor. The change came in the middle of Hill's four-year term.
Hill, a Republican, has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.
The law was the subject of a failed referendum by the Wyoming Constitution Party and led to an inquiry that reported information of possible misuse of federal money under Hill's administration.
Legislative leaders are considering appointing a special House committee to investigate further. The special committee could recommend impeachment of Hill, who has denied any wrongdoing.
Jim Rose, director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, has been acting as interim director of the department for the past five months.
Rose said a lot of progress has been made in getting the agency functioning as it should but more work needs to be done as Crandall takes over.
"Whatever he brings to that job in terms of his own experience and his own leadership style is going to be more important than necessarily what credentials he has, whether he spent his life in education or not," Rose said.
Ratliff said Crandall may not have run a school, but his experience should be helpful in running the day-to-day operations of a large department that the state's 48 school districts and lawmakers rely on for plethora of education data, reports and services.
"I think that will truly be a strength that he will bring to that department - how to pull your staff together and get them working as a team," he said.
Crandall said he will "step away" from his businesses when he takes over as director.
Renny MacKay, spokesman for Mead, said details of Crandall's employment contract, such as salary, are still being worked out.