OLYMPIA — Bud Hover, a former two-term Okanogan County commissioner, was appointed Tuesday as the new director of the state Department of Agriculture.
Hover, 58, runs a 2,300-acre hay and cattle ranch near Winthrop. He was county commissioner for eight years and served until January, after losing his bid for re-election to Ray Campbell by 10 votes.
While Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s appointment of a Republican to his cabinet may come as a surprise to some, Hover said it’s an indication that the new governor wants a diverse set of advisers in his cabinet.
“If you surround yourself with people that just think like you, you’ll always get the same solutions and the same outcomes,” he said, adding, “I think that the governor is looking for people who are qualified and who have good ideas. He knows I’m a conservative Republican, but he believes I have the skills and the ability to run this department.”
In addition to his experience as a rancher, Inslee pointed to Hover’s service on the state Salmon Recovery Board, where he is currently chairman. The board has been commended for its collaborative work to recover salmon runs without sacrificing jobs or hurting agriculture.
“Agriculture is one of Washington’s most significant cultural and economic cornerstones,” Inslee said in a news release. “Bud’s experience as a rancher and his work on issues from water to wildlife will be invaluable in further growing this vital industry.”
Hover said he resigned from the board on Tuesday, after learning of the state policy that department heads don’t serve on commissions.
He said in general, his goal is to have a positive impact on the Department of Agriculture, and to work to improve and expand agriculture in the state.
“The Department of Agriculture is a really complex organization that covers a lot of ground, from animal health to inspections to international trade,” he said, adding, “It’s like being fed with a fire hose right now. There’s a lot of information.”
Hover said he met Tuesday morning with the department’s current director, Dan Newhouse, and appreciates his offer to help him through the transition.
He will take over as director on April 1.
Hover said he plans to move to Olympia with his wife, Tonya, but will keep the ranch. His son, Wes, will take over ranch operations.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512