Former Secretary of State Mike Cooney was recently hired for an unadvertised $72,000-a-year job in the state Labor Department. Cooney, a Democratic state senator from Helena, will begin work as head of the department’s Business Standards Division on July 10, said Keith Kelly, the state labor commissioner who heads the department. Kelly, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and briefly worked for Cooney in the secretary of state’s office, said he approached Cooney about the job. It pays $72,451 and oversees the boards that license professions including physicians and nurses, electricians and plumbers, morticians and cosmetologists. State government jobs ordinarily must be advertised and filled through a competitive application process. However, managers can fill positions temporarily for up to one year, said Dave Ohler, a lawyer with the Department of Administration. Cooney’s job is temporary and the post will be advertised next summer, Kelly said. He said he didn’t advertise the job this summer because he was looking for someone to “get me through the year,” and said he knew Cooney could do it. Cooney said the job has nothing to do with political patronage. “He was looking for someone he felt could hit the ground running,” Cooney said. Kelly said the division Cooney will be running gets all its money from fees people pay to become licensed by the bureau. The secretary of state’s office was also run on fees and Kelly said he knew Cooney understood how such funding works. Kelly said Cooney has also demonstrated good managerial skills after 12 years of running a state agency and another four running the nonprofit Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies. Healthy Mothers works on children’s and family issues including affordable health care and car safety seats. “Mike has superb people skills,” Kelly said. “Mike’s personality, he’s a very inclusive manager.” Cooney worked for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was secretary of state for 12 years, ending in 2000, and ran for governor in 2000, losing in the primary. Kelly rejected the suggestion that Cooney got the job because he’s a prominent Democrat. “Yes, he’s a Democrat, but I’m hiring Mike because of his skills,” he said. Cooney will succeed John Andrew, who is retiring.