Governor-Elect Steve Bullock has tapped current Director of the Department of Environmental Quality Richard Opper to head the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Opper says he knew he wanted to play a role in the Bullock administration. He says it would have been easier for him to stay at DEQ “but what I wanted to do was serve them in the way they thought I could provide the best service to them and to the state.”
Opper’s background has been in environmental work, so his DEQ appointment made sense in that regard. But Bullock says he wanted Opper at DPHHS for his proven management ability.
“There are great people in that agency that have the policy and the substantive expertise,” Bullock said. “I think that Richard has the management expertise.”
“My job as I see it is not to learn everything there is to know about people’s jobs, they know their jobs, they know their work really well. My job as a manager is to help make those productive staff even more productive if I can, get obstacles out of their way try to find funding for them to do their job adequately,” Opper said.
A recent survey ranked Montana as the 29th healthiest state in the nation. Opper says he’d like to work on the factors which pull that ranking down.
Bullock has tapped Helena resident Sheila Hogan to head the Department of Administration. She has lead the Helena based Career Training Institute since 1992. She says after 20 years in the private sector, she’s ready for a tenure in state government.
“Getting to know the staff and getting ready for the legislature,” she said about her preparations.
Bullock says he’s keeping Montana Lottery director Angela Wong in her position. Wong has been in role since February of 2011 and the lottery has seen record sales increases in that time.
“She’s got her hands around the job, she’s really been doin a good job and something we want to continue to have the revenues and have effective management,” he said.
Revenue from the lottery goes into the state’s general fund. Wong says improving customer service and marketing strategies has really helped the lottery.
“We’ve started down a really great road with just again historic sales over the last year and I see that continuing,” she said.
Governor Elect Bullock has been more gradual in his cabinet appointments than the two administrations before him. He says he hasn’t been paying much mind to that.
“To date, we just about have all the department heads and personal staff put together and what I wanted to do was actually sit down and talk to people,” Bullock said.
He says he plans to roll out his final appointments in the coming days.
He takes office January 7th.