Montana DEQ director appointed to lead MDT – Montana Free Press

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The office of Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Thursday that Chris Dorrington, a longtime state official who has led the Montana Department of Environmental Quality since 2021, will be taking the helm at the Montana Department of Transportation.
DEQ, which among other duties regulates water quality, mining and some aspects of subdivision development, will be led by current Air, Energy and Mining Division Administrator Sonja Nowakowski.
Both appointments take effect July 1, the governor’s office said. Gianforte’s prior MDT director, Mack Long, announced his retirement in March.
Dorrington previously served as the Air, Energy and Mining Division administrator under former Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat. When Gianforte, a Republican, named Dorrington DEQ director shortly after taking office in 2021, the appointment was lauded by both industry and environmental groups.
In Thursday’s announcement, Gianforte praised Dorrington’s tenure at DEQ, where his work has included chairing the governor’s housing task force.
“Chris Dorrington is a changemaker,” Gianforte said. “Bringing his previous experience at the agency and exceptional ability to lead, I have total confidence in him as he takes the reins at MDT. I appreciate his willingness to serve in this new capacity after his successful tenure at DEQ.”
Montana Department of Transportation Director Mack Long is retiring, the office of Gov. Greg Gianforte said in an announcement March 1.
The announcement notes that Dorrington previously spent a decade, from 2006 to 2016, leading MDT’s Planning Division, and that he holds a mechanical engineering degree from Gonzaga University and a master’s degree in transportation policy, operations and logistics from George Mason University.
Montana Free Press is thrilled to announce the inaugural Free Press Fest, a dynamic three-day event taking place from September 5-7, 2024 at the University of Montana. This exciting festival aims to promote civic engagement, celebrate Montana’s rich culture, and empower attendees to actively participate in shaping the future of our state.
“I am grateful to Governor Gianforte for this new opportunity,” Dorrington said in a statement. “While I have enjoyed my time at DEQ, right now I can make the biggest difference at MDT, where I first started my career. I look forward to continuing to serve Montana in this new role.”
Nowakowski has held the DEQ division administrator job since 2021, and previously spent 15 years as a policy analyst with the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Division. According to the governor’s office, she grew up in north-central Montana and holds a journalism degree from the University of Montana.
“Sonja is the right person to lead DEQ,” Gianforte said in a statement. “With her vast experience at the agency and with the legislature, she will be ready for the job on day one. I’m grateful to Sonja for stepping up to serve as the head of this important agency.”
 “I am honored to step into this role to serve Montanans,” Nowakowski said in a statement. “My life experience is reinforced by the laws that govern natural resources, protect Montana’s environment, and our way of life. I look forward to working with our staff to deliver the high-quality customer service Montanans expect.”
The park prepared its new plan in response to research regarding brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can cause cattle to abort their young. That research has concluded brucellosis transmission to livestock — a concern that has underpinned the park’s bison-management approach for more than two decades — is more likely attributable to elk than bison.
Montana Free Press has announced the inaugural Free Press Fest, a two-day event taking place September 5-7, 2024, at the University of Montana. The festival aims to promote civic engagement, celebrate the state’s rich culture, and advance conversations around issues that matter to Montanans.
As is long tradition in Montana politics, the 2024 primary election saw a sweat-drenched tug of war play out in Republican legislative primaries between the hardline and comparatively moderate wings of the state’s currently dominant political party.
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Eric came to journalism in a roundabout way after studying engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman (credit, or blame, for his career direction rests with the campus's student newspaper, the Exponent). He has worked as a professional journalist in Montana since 2013, with stints at the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network before joining the Montana Free Press newsroom in Helena full time in 2019. More by Eric Dietrich
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