Governor Steve Bullock’s appointment of Twin Bridges native Angela McLean as Montana’s 31st Lieutenant Governor on Feb. 10 was not a big surprise to teachers and community members in her hometown.
McLean, 43, fills the vacancy created when Bullock appointed Lieutenant Governor John Walsh to the U.S. Senate on Feb. 7. Many people in Twin Bridges remember McLean as a hard working, well-liked, bright young woman.
“She was kind of destined for this in my book,” Twin Bridges Public Schools administrative secretary Sylvia Dulaney said. Dulaney has worked at the school for more than 30 years and said she believes McLean’s time there gave her a good groundwork for the success she has achieved.
“We are proud to have her as an alumnus,” she concluded.
A 1989 graduate of Twin Bridges High School, McLean earned her bachelor’s degree in 1994 from the University of Montana Western. She went on to earn her Masters of Arts in curriculum and instruction from the University of Montana in 2000.
“As a high schooler, waiting tables at the Blue Anchor Café, it would have been hard for me to imagine one day becoming lieutenant governor—but great teachers and the support of my friends, my community and my family have made it possible for me,” McLean said. She concluded by saying she had an extraordinary education in Twin Bridges schools. “It made a difference for me,” she said. “It is a wonderful community.”
McLean, the first member of her family to graduate from college, said that her teachers made her believe the sky was the limit even when challenges she faced felt overwhelming. Former Twin Bridges High School English teacher, Dennis Day, said McLean’s successes did not come easy and she achieved as a result of the 100 percent dedication she applied to everything she did. Day said she was detail oriented and would help anyone, anytime. He went on to say he believes she is the same way today.
“There is not a girl who ever worked harder,” McLean’s fifth-grade teacher Verta Dorseth said, admitting she teared up when she heard of McLean’s appointment. “She deserves everything she has gotten. She never lets challenges bury her.”
McLean said she hopes she was able to make a difference in the lives of her students. She began teaching in Arlee in 1994 and moved to Anaconda in 1997 with her husband Mike. There she was an American history and government teacher at Anaconda High School. She was also an adjunct professor at Montana Tech in Butte.
Politics have always been something McLean was interested in, she said. She added that through her teaching she has been able to keep up on it.
“I am incredibly honored to have this opportunity and I look forward to getting to work for Montana. My classroom now gets to extend to all 56 counties,” McLean said. She added that she feels truly blessed to represent Twin Bridges and Madison County, mentioning that the governor’s agenda is one that is meant for Montana’s urban and rural communities. McLean said that she believes growing up in Twin Bridges provides her with sensitivity for rural issues such as the importance of having good, clean water for irrigation and watering livestock.
“I have gotten to see firsthand the impacts of policies and legislation,” McLean said of her youth in Twin Bridges and time in Anaconda, a former smelting community. “I have a unique perspective.”
Dulaney said when McLean was in school she always tried to do what was best for everyone. She added that she believes McLean has gotten to this point because of her impartiality, intelligence and ‘people-person’ personality.
Day said he tries to stay in touch with his former students and send them notes to let them know that somebody still cares. He has done this with McLean and counts her as one of his successes as an educator.
Sworn in by District Judge Ray Dayton of Anaconda, McLean reported to work in Helena the next day—Tuesday, Feb. 11. She is the first classroom teacher and second woman to become lieutenant governor in Montana history.
“I am thrilled for her and so proud,” Dorseth said. “She pulls the most out of her students as she can.”
McLean had to resign her position as chair of the Montana Board of Regents, which oversees the Montana University System, when Bullock appointed her as lieutenant governor. She had served in that position since 2012 and previously served on the Montana Board of Public Education. McLean said she hopes to see continued advancements and opportunities for Montana students in areas like veterinary medicine, which is something she worked on while she was on the Montana Board of Regents.
“[McLean] will be a strong partner in making sure our schools and colleges are giving our students the tools they need to build an even brighter future for our state,” Bullock said. “I truly cannot think of someone that is more up to the task to be my partner in governing and making a meaningful difference not just today but in the future as well.”
According to McLean, she is excited to bring the governor’s ideas about education and jobs to reality. She explained that the governor likes to use education for opportunities to grow the economy in areas like Madison County.
“I am ecstatic for her,” Dulaney said. “The position means a lot to her and she will use her influence to help people.”