Gov.-elect Butch Otter has appointed three Republicans with close ties to his campaign to lead state agencies, including state Rep. Bill Deal, who takes over at the Department of Insurance after losing a bid for Idaho House speaker.
Otter also picked Celia Gould, a former Republican state representative from Buhl, to lead the Department of Agriculture and Tana Corey, a former district director for Otter during his three terms in the U.S. House, to take over at the state Bureau of Occupational Licensing.
Deal, R-Nampa, will resign his seat, said Jon Hanian, Otter’s spokesman. A local Republican committee in Canyon County will draft a list of potential replacements and Otter will select from their choices, he said.
On Thursday, outgoing Gov. Jim Risch, who returns to his seat as lieutenant governor next month after a seven-month term as governor, received a list of three possible replacements for state Sen. Gerry Sweet from the 12-member District 20 Central Committee in Ada County.
Sweet, R-Meridian, left to work for U.S. Rep. Bill Sali. Either Risch or Otter will chose his replacement.
But Hanian said Otter, not Risch, will pick Deal’s replacement.
Deal chaired the House State Affairs Committee. He’s an insurance salesman with a reputation as a pro-business centrist from his eight terms in the Legislature.
On Dec. 7, House Republicans chose Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, an outspoken conservative as speaker over Deal in a secret ballot.
Deal replaces Shad Priest, who had been acting director of the agency which regulates the insurance industry in Idaho.
Otter was quick to name Gould to replace Agriculture Director Pat Takasugi, who announced his resignation last week.
In the House, Gould chaired the Judiciary Committee. She is married to former state House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, R-Burley, who retired in 2006 after eight years in the chamber’s highest post.
Gould squared off against Risch in a heated 2002 primary for lieutenant governor, and she was an early supporter of Otter’s run for governor when many politicos considered Risch the presumptive Republican nominee.
Corey managed four congressional field offices and other state operations for Otter when he represented the sprawling 1st Congressional District.
“I’m fortunate to have three such qualified and experienced people willing to join my administration,” Otter said in a written statement.
Otter has reappointed at least 12 agency heads from Risch’s interim administration, but he’s changing leadership at some key departments.
Department of Administration Director Pam Ahrens announced her resignation earlier this week. Idaho Lottery Director Roger Simmons and Idaho State Police Director Dan Charboneau did the same last week.
Otter also declined to reappoint Karl Dreher at the Department of Water Resources and forced prison director Vaughn Killeen to step down.
The state Board of Correction, with Otter’s endorsement, on Friday chose Brent Reinke to replace Killeen as director of the Idaho Department of Corrections. Reinke has served as head of state Department of Juvenile Corrections since 1997.
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