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Gov. Gianforte ups salaries for cabinet directors

DPHHS director gets 46% more than predecessor
Greg Gianforte
Posted at 12:58 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 15:48:11-05

HELENA — Most state agency directors appointed by Gov. Greg Gianforte are getting paid at substantially higher salaries than their predecessors under the Bullock administration.

The highest-paid director will be Adam Meier, at the Department of Public Health & 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.

Under 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.

“Montana’s pay for agency directors has been among the worst in our region and country. We’re looking for folks who can make our state agencies more responsive to the people they serve and more responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. We adjusted salaries to make Montana more competitive, because we want change agents with the best qualifications and experience needed to change the way Helena does business and lead Montana’s comeback,” Gianforte said in a news release. “I have been clear that they will work for and earn every penny.”

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.

Gianforte's office provided the following data for comparison:

Department of Administration

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • 2020 national median: $156,000
    • Rank (nationally): 38th out of 41
    • Rank (neighboring states): 3rd out of 4
    • Rank (Mountain states): 7th out of 7

  • 2021 salary: $145,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 29th out of 41
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 2nd out of 4
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 5th out of 7

Department of Agriculture

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • Rank (nationally): 37th out of 48
    • Rank (neighboring states): 4th out of 5
    • Rank (Mountain states): 5th out of 7

  • 2021 salary: $120,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 35th out of 48
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 3rd out of 5
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 4th out of 7

Department of Commerce

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • Rank (nationally): 33rd out of 36
    • Rank (neighboring states): 4th out of 4
    • Rank (Mountain states): 6th out of 6

  • 2021 salary: $160,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 24th out of 36
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 2nd out of 4
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 2nd out of 6

Department of Corrections

  • 2020 salary: $112,944
    • Rank (nationally): 47th out of 48
    • Rank (neighboring states): 5th out of 5
    • Rank (Mountain states): 7th out of 7

  • 2021 salary: $144,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 36th out of 48
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 4th out of 5
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 5th out of 7

Department of Environmental Quality

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • Rank (nationally): 44th out of 47
    • Rank (neighboring states): 5th out of 5
    • Rank (Mountain states): 8th out of 8

  • 2021 salary: $130,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 36th out of 47
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 4th out of 5
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 7th out of 8

Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks

  • 2020 salary: $112,944
    • Rank (nationally): 36th out of 44
    • Rank (neighboring states): 4th out of 5
    • Rank (Mountain states): 8th out of 8

  • 2021 salary: $130,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 27th out of 44
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 4th out of 5
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 6th out of 8

Department of Labor & Industry

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • Rank (nationally): 40th out of 48
    • Rank (neighboring states): 2nd out of 4
    • Rank (Mountain states): 5th out of 7

  • 2021 salary: $130,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 32nd out of 48
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 1st out of 4
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 5th out of 7

Department of Military Affairs

  • 2020 salary: $123,667
    • Rank (nationally): 44th out of 49
    • Rank (neighboring states): 5th out of 5
    • Rank (Mountain states): 7th out of 8

  • 2021 salary: $130,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 39th out of 49
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 4th out of 5
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 7th out of 8

Department of Natural Resources & Conservation

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • Rank (nationally): 46th out of 48
    • Rank (neighboring states): 4th out of 4
    • Rank (Mountain states): 8th out of 8

  • 2021 salary: $130,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 36th out of 48
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 2nd out of 4
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 6th out of 8

Department of Public Health & Human Services

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • Rank (nationally): 42nd out of 44
    • Rank (neighboring states): 4th out of 4
    • Rank (Mountain states): 6th out of 6

  • 2021 salary: $165,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 27th out of 44
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 3rd out of 4
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 5th out of 6

Department of Revenue

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • Rank (nationally): 44th out of 48
    • Rank (neighboring states): 4th out of 5
    • Rank (Mountain states): 6th out of 8

  • 2021 salary: $130,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 37th out of 48
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 1st out of 5
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 3rd out of 8

Department of Transportation

  • 2020 salary: $112,935
    • Rank (nationally): 48th out of 49
    • Rank (neighboring states): 5th out of 5
    • Rank (Mountain states): 8th out of 8

  • 2021 salary: $130,000
    • Adjusted rank (nationally): 43rd out of 49
    • Adjusted rank (neighboring): 4th out of 5
    • Adjusted rank (Mountain): 7th out of 8