Greg Gianforte has begun the transition to his tenure as governor of Montana by naming multiple advisory committees — the first to help him formulate a strategy for fighting COVID-19, and subsequent committees to inform his selections of leaders for various state agencies.
In a state where a sea change in government is pending after 16 years of checks and balances between governor and Legislature, his choices for these committees are the topic of endless speculation and interpretation.
Perhaps most criticized has been the makeup of the advisory panel to recommend a new director for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The panel certainly appears to be skewed against conservation organizations.
Gianforte’s COVID-19 committee, which he announced in two installments, is inclusive. Science and public health-centric views will get aired along with more partisan views from the majority of conservative Republicans.
Taken as a whole, his advisory panels have the appearance of, if not balance, inclusion. There are certainly individual appointments that give us pause, such as Rep. Kerry White of Bozeman, who recently enhanced his reputation as a fringe right-wing radical by referring to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as a “hoe” in social-media posts.
But along with GOP party faithful, Gianforte has appointed apolitical professionals and card-carrying Democrats to many of the committees.
At the end of the day, the barometer of these transition panels will be results. Who will be appointed to lead the various state agencies? And what sort of a COVID-19 policy will the Gianforte Administration actually produce?
The approach Gianforte has shown in creating these transition committees is thoughtful. The optics show an administration ready to consider a wide range of views as decisions about the state’s major issues are made.
Whether that image reflects reality is yet to be seen.
For now, the governor-elect gets the benefit of the doubt.
The Billings Gazette Editorial Board includes President and Publisher Dave Worstell, Regional Editor David McCumber, and Chief Photographer Larry Mayer.