Just days after making the expected appointment of John Walsh to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy, Gov. Steve Bullock did the unexpected in appointing the new lieutenant governor.

Angela McLean, 43, is an Anaconda High School American government teacher, married and the mother of two young children. She is not a politician. McLean has never held elected public office, has never run for elected public office.

When the new lieutenant governor visited Billings this week, she stopped by The Gazette for a conversation with the editorial board. She stuck to script on Bullock administration priorities for improving education, the state economy and government efficiency.

She also demonstrated a big-picture understanding of the state’s education system. McLean was appointed to the Montana Board of Public Education in 2006 and served till 2010 when Gov. Brian Schweitzer appointed her to the Board of Regents. She resigned as chairwoman of the regents when Bullock tapped her for the lieutenant governor job.

The woman who led the Board of Regents during its most recent negotiation of a two-year university system tuition freeze understands that educational success starts in early childhood. Making pre-kindergarten accessible to all Montana families is a Bullock administration goal, she said. She is aggressively promoting dual enrollment for Montana high school students to start earning college credits while they earn their high school diplomas.

McLean said Bullock has promised she will be his partner in the governor’s office.

She told him: “I wanted to be at the table and be part of all policy decisions.”

McLean described herself as a working mom in a middle class family. Lots of Montanans fit that description. We sincerely hope McLean uses that working mom dedication, multi-tasking skill and concern for families in Helena as she has in Anaconda.

McLean said she accepted the appointment with the strong support of her family. She is leaving the classroom, she told her Anaconda High School students, “for an opportunity to serve students like them across the state, an opportunity to pay it forward.”

We look forward to seeing our new lieutenant governor serving Montana well. We especially look forward to seeing her again in Billings and in Eastern Montana.

McLean wasn’t an obvious choice for this appointment, but she may prove to be a great choice.

— The Billings Gazette

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