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Gov. Gianforte ups salaries for cabinet directors

DPHHS director gets 46% more than predecessor
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Posted at 12:58 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 15:10:58-05

HELENA — Most state agency directors appointed by Gov. Greg Gianforte are getting paid at substantially higher salaries than their predecessors under the Bullock administration – some as much as 46 percent more.

The highest-paid director will be Adam Meier, at the Department of Public Health and Human Services, which is the largest state agency. His salary will be $165,000 – a 46 percent increase over the previous director’s salary of about $113,000.

The administration told MTN News Monday that pay for people leading state agencies has been "among the worst in the country" for years, and that it offered more money to create competitive salaries "to attract and retain the change agents with the qualifications and experience we’re looking for."

It also said they've directed each director to find efficiencies within their respective budgets, with the savings going to help fund their higher salaries.

Under the former Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, nearly all state-agency directors were getting paid just under $113,000 a year.

Under Gianforte, a Republican, half of the new cabinet-level directors will be getting paid $130,000 a year – a 15 percent increase.

Other directors are getting raises ranging from about 5 percent to 41 percent – except for Meier’s salary, which is the highest and a 46 percent increase.

The Gianforte administration said that even with the raises, most department directors will be getting paid less than similar jobs in most other states, including neighboring states and the Rocky Mountain region.

Here is a list of the incoming department directors, their salaries and their increase over the previous director:

Public Health and Human Services: Meier, who directed a similar agency in Kentucky in 2018 and 2019, will be paid $165,000, a 46 percent increase over the prior director.

Commerce: Scott Osterman, a former executive at Applied Materials in Kalispell, will be paid $160,000, a 41 percent increase.

Administration: Misty Ann Giles, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office, will be paid $145,000, a 28 percent increase.

Corrections: Brian Gootkin, the former Gallatin County sheriff, will be paid $144,000, a 27 percent increase.

Environmental Quality: Chris Dorrington, a veteran department employee, will be paid $130,000, a 15 percent increase.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks: Harry “Hank” Worsech, who’s worked 17 years in the department, will be paid $130,000, a 15 percent increase.

Labor & Industry: Laurie Esau, who most recently served as chief of staff for a Republican congressman from Minnesota, will be paid $130,000, a 15 percent increase.

Natural Resources and Conservation: Amanda Kaster, who worked most recently at the U.S. Department of the Interior, will be paid $130,000, a 15 percent increase.

Revenue: Brendan Beatty, a longtime attorney at the department, will be paid $130,000, a 15 percent increase.

Transportation: Malcolm “Mack” Long, former president of a Billings construction company, will be paid $130,000, a 15 percent increase.

Military Affairs: Maj. Gen. John “Pete” Hronek of the Montana National Guard will be paid $130,000, a 5 percent increase.

Agriculture: Mike Foster, a former executive with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Montana, will be paid $120,000, a 6 percent increase.