By BOB ANEZ/Associated Press Writer
HELENA - Gov.-elect Brian Schweitzer announced two key appointments today, naming Teton County Commissioner Mary Sexton and Havre farmer Nancy Peterson to his Cabinet.
Sexton will head the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, replacing Bud Clinch who has held the job for a dozen years. Peterson will be director for the Department of Agriculture, succeeding Ralph Peck who ran the agency for nine years.
Most department directors are replaced when a new governor takes office.
Sexton, 52, has been county commissioner since 1999 and her term is about to end. She was a candidate for state Public Service Commission in 2000 and was the running mate of John Vincent, Schweitzer's opponent for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, earlier this year.
Peterson, 49, operates a 2,600-acre farm north of Havre and is the third Schweitzer selection with ties to the Farm Service Agency. She was on the state committee for the federal program at the same as Schweitzer.
Keith Kelly, an adviser for Schweitzer's transition office, was the national head of the agency during that time. Bruce Nelson, who heads the transition team, was state director.
''I choose people that I trust,'' Schweitzer said in explaining his reliance on contacts he made during his work with the agency.
He said he selected Sexton because he wanted someone from the ranching field and with ties to county government. Peterson was a natural choice for agriculture because of her more than 30 years' experience in farming and her familiarity with federal agricultural programs, he said.
Sexton declined to comment on various issues facing the state's natural resources agency, including questionable spending on wildfires and how the department pays administrative costs of managing state lands.
She said it would be premature for her to express opinions on such matters.
Sexton was one of several people interviewed Tuesday by Schweitzer, some for possible posts in his administration.
Others who transition officials confirmed were interviewed were Sheila Rice of Great Falls and Joan Miles of Helena, b and Evan Barrett of Butte.