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Most Cabinet members hopeful they'll work for Martz

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HELENA - Most of the Cabinet members working for Gov. Marc Racicot have hopes of getting jobs with the new administration when Lt. Gov. Judy Martz takes over as governor early next year.

Six of 11 told The Associated Press this week they would like to work for Martz, and all but one said they prefer their current jobs. All said they also would be willing to hold other posts if Martz preferred.

Only Laurie Ekanger, who heads the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and Marvin Dye, Transportation Department director, said they are leaving state government. Neither has any immediate plans.

Pat Graham at the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said he has not decided what he wants to do. Adj. Gen. John "Gene" Prendergast, who runs the Department of Military Affairs, could not be reached for comment on his plans.

The Department of Administration has no permanent director since Lois Menzies quit last month to head the Legislative Services Division. Dave Ashley, the acting director, said he's not interested in the job.

Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the governor, and incoming chief executives - even from the same political party as the predecessor - usually clean house to put their personal stamp on the new administration.

Racicot replaced all the department heads when he took office after fellow Republican Stan Stephens in 1992. He reshuffled his Cabinet when re-elected in 1996, but left eight jobs unchanged.

Gov.-elect Martz has named her budget director and chief of staff, but has yet to announce Cabinet selections.

Directors of two of the agencies with some of the most controversy - Mark Simonich and Rick Day - said they like their work and would like to continue.

"I indicated (to Martz) that I would be very happy to work in her administration in any way she might see fit," said Simonich, who has run the Department of Environmental Quality since it was formed in a reorganization 5 1/2 years ago.

"DEQ is an incredible challenge, but it is a challenge that has been wonderful for me," he said. "I'm not interested in opening any new doors or closing any doors at this point."

Although his agency has been attacked by critics as being lax on environmental protection, Simonich said he's proud of efforts to toughen enforcement and streamline the regulatory process.

Day, who has been Department of Corrections chief for all eight years of Racicot's two terms, said he has not given much thought to finding another job. He said he has enjoyed working with Martz in her role as lieutenant governor and his interest remains in the criminal justice field.

"I like the people in the field," Day said. "I really feel they make a difference. It's what government is all about - making neighborhoods safer for kids and families."

While he would like to continue in corrections, Day said he would not rule out some other government work. "I enjoy working for the public," he said.

Mary Bryson, revenue director for four years, described herself as "very interested" in staying in her job. However, she added, "if the Martz-Ohs administration sees fit to keep me around and would like me to do something else, I'd be more than happy to talk to them about that."

Bud Clinch would like to stay director for the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. "I'm comfortable where I am and it's probably where I best fit," he said.

Peter Blouke, Commerce Department director, said he hopes to work for Martz, depending on the job. He doesn't expect to keep his existing position in an agency that is expected to carry the banner for renewed economic development efforts in Montana.

While he enjoys his work and would like to continue, Agriculture Director Ralph Peck said he also is considering possible jobs in private business or the federal government.

"Those are just options that you have to look at to feed your family," he said. "All options are open at this point in time. You want to do something that you feel comfortable with and provides a personal reward, a personal satisfaction, for the service you provide."

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