New Gov. Phil Batt has appointed only two North Idaho residents to top administration posts, but he said he hopes that number will grow.
Potlatch Inc. lobbyist Todd Maddock of Lewiston landed one of the top plums in state government: a seat on the Northwest Power Planning Council, at $75,899 per year.
The only other visible Northerner is a holdover from the administration of Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus: Department of Commerce Director Jim Hawkins, who is paid $66,123.
While Batt hasn’t finished putting together his roster, most of the new faces are Boiseans and other southern Idahoans Batt has met over the years since he launched his political career from an onion farm in Wilder.
Batt said he hopes to maintain geographic balance in his administration, but it’s difficult.
“Certainly it’s important; all the issues involved are geography, population density. But uppermost is the ability to do the job,” Batt said Friday.
“Unfortunately, or fortunately, most of the population is here (in Boise) and most of the folks who have had previous experience in government are from here, so consequently a disproportionate number (of those appointed) are from here.”
Batt said there are at least two strong applicants from North Idaho whom he hopes to plug into top-level jobs. “I’ve made a strong criterion that we consider qualified applicants from other parts of the state.”
For now, though, most of his top aides know more about the Snake River Plain than they do about the timbered mountains of North Idaho.
Batt’s budget chief is former Burley lawmaker Dean Van Engelen. State Insurance Fund director Merle Parsley, a Sandpoint native, has been replaced by Boisean Drew Forney.
Of the 12 other appointments Batt had announced by week’s end, all but two are from the Boise valley. Former Rep. Pam Ahrens, R-Boise, will run the Department of Administration; Boisean John Hatch will run Agriculture; former Sen. Roger Madsen, R-Boise, will head Employment.
Boise attorney Mike Brassey will run Insurance; Boise bureaucrat Gavin Gee will head Finance; former Caldwell Police Chief Robert Sobba will run Law Enforcement; Kuna businessman Dennis Jackson will head the lottery.
Twin Falls attorney Bob Purcell will run Labor; former Nampa city engineer Wally Cory will head the Division of Environment; and Boise businesswoman and former Sen. Rachel Gilbert has been named to the Industrial Commission.
New Health and Welfare chief Linda Caballero was hired from out of state, but she is a former Boisean, as is Mike Field, the other Northwest Power Planning Council commissioner from Idaho.