August 23, 2011 in Idaho

Montanan picked as new Idaho lands chief

By The Spokesman-Review
Betsy Russell photo

The Idaho Land Board, from left, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Gov. Butch Otter and state Controller Donna Jones, meets Tuesday to hire a new state lands director; state schools Superintendent Tom Luna is participating by phone. The board chose Montana trust lands official Tom Schultz.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - Idaho’s Land Board has voted unanimously to hire Tom Schultz, current administrator of trust land management for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, as Idaho’s new state lands director.

Schultz replaces George Bacon, a longtime department employee and the director from 2007 until about a month ago, when he retired; Schultz was chosen from among four finalists, including two from within the department. Schultz will be paid $112,800 per year, the same salary Bacon was earning; it’s below the state policy level for the position of $116,000, but he’ll get a review and possible adjustment after six months.

“We had four quality candidates, and I appreciate them stepping forward, especially those that are a part of the department,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. “I think Tom brings a set of skills from Montana that will take the department to the next level.”

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said, “We had some very fine candidates – Kathy Opp in particular.” Opp is the acting director and current deputy director; she’s been with the department since 2004, and also worked for the department from 1992 to 1998, serving as its fiscal officer. Opp also worked for Boise Cascade Corp.

The other two finalists were Bob Brammer, assistant director at the department for lands, minerals and range; and Lon Lundberg, a businessman and property manager from Meridian. “We had some great people that applied for the job,” said state Controller Donna Jones. “I think we were very lucky.” Added Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, “I think we’re going to have the best of both worlds – hopefully our candidates from inside the department will decide to stay and be part of the team.”

This is the first time in decades a director has been selected from outside the department. Gov. Butch Otter said Schultz “brings a lot of new ideas and experiences, especially concerning return on assets.”

In Montana, Schultz has headed the trust land management division for the state since 2001; he’s been with the state since 1997 and has also served as chief of the forest management bureau and administrator of the water resources division. Schultz is the current president of the Western States Land Commissioners Association. An Air Force veteran, he holds a degree in government from the University of Virginia, a master’s in political science from the University of Wyoming and a master’s in forestry from the University of Montana.

Said Gov. Butch Otter, “He comes with a pretty well-established background on natural resources and on management of same.” Plus, he said, “He was a great interview.” The governor said, “We saw it as a great fit for what we consider to be a great team.”

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