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Lt. Gov. McLean resigning to take higher-ed job - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Lt. Gov. McLean resigning to take higher-ed job

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Lt Gov Angela McLean Lt Gov Angela McLean
HELENA -

Lt. Gov. Angela McLean Monday said she's resigning to take a job with the commissioner of higher education, becoming the second lieutenant governor within two years to leave the job under Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

In a surprise announcement, the commissioner’s office said early Monday that McLean will be its next director of American Indian and minority achievement. She starts Jan. 4. 

McLean, a former high school teacher and chair of the state Board of Regents, will be working with tribal colleges, other schools and students to increase educational opportunities for Native Americans in Montana.

McLean said she didn’t tell Bullock about the new job until Monday morning, shortly before the announcement was made.

Sources told MTN News that McLean, appointed lieutenant governor just 22 months ago, had had a falling out with the governor and seen a diminished role on the job in recent months.

When asked whether she’d been pushed to leave the administration before the 2016 re-election campaign, McLean said taking the new job had nothing to do with the upcoming election season.

“I believe I was an incredible asset to the governor, in forums (with the media), as well as in larger forums … like the campaign trail,” she said. “I don’t believe that (my new job) and the timing of it is in any way related at all.”

Reporters also asked Bullock Monday if he or his staff had discussed replacing McLean on the 2016 ticket.

The governor said he never spoke with McLean about leaving the ticket next year, but didn’t answer whether his staff had talked about it.

“This wasn’t a reset for the re-election or anything like that,” Bullock said in a teleconference interview from Austin, Texas, where he’s attending an education conference. “I think she sought (this job) on her own, by all means. … I can see why she’d want to do this.”

Candidates for governor next year can’t officially file until January, but Bullock has been actively raising money for a re-election bid in 2016. Three Republicans also have said they’re running or considering running to challenge Bullock.

Bullock now must search for a replacement for McLean as lieutenant governor and, presumably, to run with him in 2016. In Montana, the governor and lieutenant governor run together on the same ticket.

Bullock said he hoped to appoint a successor to McLean within the next few weeks, but said he didn’t have anyone specific in mind.

“I’m going to focus my efforts on somebody who has the ability to move our state forward in the coming years and will continue to help build on our economy, help strengthen our education system,” he said.

McLean is earning $86,360 a year as lieutenant governor. Her new job will pay $102,000 a year.

Kevin McRae, deputy higher education commissioner for communications and human resources, said the job that went to McLean became open in October. The office posted and advertised it as any state job, he said.

The job drew a strong field of applicants, but the field became stronger when McLean applied in early November, shortly before the close of applications, McRae said.

Higher education officials said McLean is an excellent fit for the job, with her background as a teacher and broad experience on Native American education issues – including as lieutenant governor.

McLean, 45, began her teaching career in Arlee on the Flathead Indian Reservation and was an American history and government teacher at Anaconda High School when Bullock tapped her to be lieutenant governor.

She succeeded John Walsh, whom Bullock had just appointed in February 2014 to become U.S. senator to fill out the term of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.

Baucus, who’d already announced he would not run for re-election in 2014, retired from his Senate post after being appointed U.S. ambassador to China.

Walsh initially ran for election to Baucus’ Senate seat, but pulled out of the race in August 2014 after the New York Times reported that he had plagiarized a final paper at the U.S. Army War College in 2007.

McLean said Monday she visited all seven of Montana’s Indian reservations at least twice during her first year of being lieutenant governor and had worked on several education initiatives for Native Americans and other students.

She said she’s looking forward to continuing and expanding that work at her new job.

“It’s an exciting, extraordinary opportunity on behalf of not just our Native American students, but on behalf of every single one of their counterparts across the state, because what matters for our Native students matters for our other students, and what matters for our Native population matters for the rest of our population,” she said.

“I think I’ve been a voice for that and I think now it can be an even more powerful voice … when it comes to elevating the conversation.”

Bullock said he’s “pleased and certainly supportive” of McLean’s move to a new job.

“She certainly contributed to the success of our team since she joined,” he said. “I’m confident she’s going to be making a positive impact on Montana for years to come.”

When asked whether his office had reduced McLean’s role in various projects and initiatives, Bullock said some had been moved to other staff members who’d worked closely with McLean. She had developed the projects to a point where they could proceed on their own, he said.

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