Richland County will have a voice on Gov. Elect Greg Gianforte’s COVID-19 task force, as well as familiar faces on three other transition advisory teams.

Mayor Rick Norby was named to serve on the 21-member COVID-19 task force, which includes not only health care experts, but also business leaders, school administrators, law enforcement and local and tribal leaders.

Norby, in addition to being mayor of Sidney, is also President of Montana League of Cities and Towns. He described the appointment as a unique opportunity.

“I”m grateful to Gov.-elect Gianforte for the opportunity to be a voice for local government on his COVID-19 Task Force,” he said. “I look forward to working alongside the Governor-elect and task force members to protect the most vulnerable among us, while also safely reopening our economy.”

Gianforte said his goal is a plan specific to Montana.

“Montana faces a public health crisis and economic crisis as a result of COVID-19 — which I trust the people of Montana to take seriously,” he said. “It remains my top priority to work together to protect the most vulnerable among us, while also safely and fully opening back up our economy. This task force will be indispensable to me in tailoring a plan unique to the Treasure State that will promote both the health and economic well-being of Montanans.”

Meanwhile, Kayla Anderson, licensed addiction counselor and owner of Prairie Hills Recovery Center in Sidney was named as a member of Gianforte’s transition advisory team for the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

“We face a serious addiction epidemic here in Montana that Governor-elect Gianforte is committed to combating,” she said. “It’s an honor to serve on the Governor-elect’s DPHHS Transition Advisory Team to help the Governor-elect identify candidates ready to tackle this challenge, and others, head on.”

Among its tasks, Gianforte said the team will identify and review candidates to serve as the next director of DPHHS.

“We’re in the midst of a public health crisis,” he said. “We face an epidemic of addiction that has destroyed communities, torn apart families, and left thousands of children in foster care. We need someone leading DPHHS who can address these serious challenges, who will bring greater accountability and transparency to the agency, and who will hep lead Montana’s comeback. I’m grateful to the members of this advisory team for their service, and I look forward to receiving their recommendations.”

Melissa Zeiler, previously probation administrator at Sidney Probation and Parole Administration and previously a team member with the Seventh District Juvenile Drug Treatment Court, was named to the Department of Corrections Transition Advisory Team.

“I am just so proud to be representing eastern Montana,” she said. “I am really happy we can represent eastern Montana. The importance of this is huge, because it represents our entire state.”

The primary mission of this team will be to identify and review candidates to serve as the next director of the Department of Corrections, Gianforte said.

“Montanans count on the Department of Corrections to protect and promote public safety,” he said. “Unfortunately, well-documented incidents of gross mismanagement and a lack of transparency and accountability have prevented the Department of Corrections from serving the people of Montana well. It’s time to change how the DOC does business, from changing the culture to reducing recidivism to improving reentry. I’m grateful to this transition advisory team, and I look forward to getting their recommendations.”

Last, but not least, Montana Petroleum Association director Alan Olson was tapped to serve on Gianforte’s transition advisory team for Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resource sand Conservation, which will be tasked with identifying and reviewing candidates to lead these agencies.

“We can responsibly develop our abundant resources and simultaneously protect our environment, but for too long, state government has stood in the way with DNRC and DEQ serving as project prevention departments,” Gianforte said. “With the right leadership at these agencies, we can eliminate needless delays, streamline permitting processes, protect our environment, and create more good-paying Montana jobs.”

Gianforte said there will be more transition advisory teams announced in coming days. The members of these advisory teams are serving in a voluntary capacity and are not being compensated for their time.

In addition to tapping talent across the state for his advisory teams, Gianforte has also opened a website called ServeMontana.com for people from across the state to submit their credentials for consideration for posts in his administration.

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