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HELENA — Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday appointed Bob Brown, the Republican he defeated for governor in 2004, to the Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees.

Brown, from Whitefish, served as secretary of state from 2001-2004, after a long career in the Montana Senate and House. He is a retired history teacher and most recently retired as a senior fellow with the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Center at the University of Montana.

Brown said he didn't seek the appointment, which “came out of the blue.”

Patti Keebler, the governor's board and commission adviser, called Brown on Tuesday to gauge his interest in serving on the Historical Society board. Brown told Keebler that he “absolutely” was interested. She told him that Schweitzer wanted to appoint him. “I'm pleased about it, mildly surprised, but grateful,” Brown said. “It was a fun and a nice thing to have happen to me.”

Brown said he's been an amateur historian for most of his life and loves history, particularly Montana history.

Schweitzer, a Democrat, said Brown had worked at UM and now has some time on his hands now that he's retired.

“He's a guy who has a keen interest in Montana history,” Schweitzer said. “I've respected him over the years, in all the positions he's held in state government. He was one of the youngest legislators, president of the Senate, secretary of state. He has a lot of energy and talent, and I'm looking for people who will be contributing to Montana's future.”

Schweitzer expressed surprise that his appointment of a prominent Republican drew interest from a reporter.

“I did pick a Republican senator (John Bohlinger) as my running mate,” Schweitzer said. “I picked Mary Sexton, who ran against me, as my natural resources director. “Shoot, the election is over,” Schweitzer said. “These aren't adversaries. These are Montanans.”

Fifteen people sit on the Historical Society's board of trustees and generally oversee the state agency's operations.

Brown said he sees “the daunting challenge” of raising $30 million in private money for a new building across the street from the current facility and looks forward to helping.

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