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Updated Jun 26, 2013 - 6:40 pm

Arizona senator chosen to lead Wyoming Education Department

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Richard Crandall, an Arizona state senator and co-owner of two nutritional service companies, was selected on Wednesday by Gov. Matt Mead to run the Wyoming Education Department.

Crandall, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate, takes over a department that has been embroiled in controversy recently, including the removal of its previous administrator- state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill- earlier this year by a new state law. Hill is challenging the constitutionality of the change in court.

Despite the situation he is stepping into, Crandall said he considers the position to be a ``dream job.''

``You've got a state board, a governor's office and a Legislature who just want to do big things for Wyoming students,'' he said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. ``And they have a lot of similar ideas and some big thinking and to be able to walk into an organization like that and be a part of it is a thrill of a lifetime.''

Crandall said he would ``step away'' from his two companies: CN Resources and Crandall Corporate Dietitians in Mesa, Ariz.

Mead said he was impressed with Crandall's background in education policy and innovation. Crandall is past chair of the Arizona Senate and House education committees.

``Rich's philosophy of supporting our students and schools with a bottom up approach matches well with our culture,'' Mead said in a statement.

The Wyoming Education Department oversees a budget of about $1 billion a year and employs about 150 people.

Mead and the Legislature enacted a new law this past winter removing the statewide elected superintendent of public instruction as head of the Education Department. Instead, the department will be administered by a director appointed by the governor.

The change occurred in the middle of Hill's four-year term. Hill was elected in 2010.

Jim Rose, director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, has been acting as interim director.

The law was the subject of a failed referendum by the Wyoming Constitution Party and an inquiry into how the Education Department has been run.

The inquiry team, which was appointed by Mead, reported back last week. The inquiry reported information of possible misuse of federal money for unauthorized programs and trips in the state plane under Hill's administration.

Legislative leaders are considering appointing a special House committee to investigate further. The special committee could recommend impeachment of Hill, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Crandall said he has read up on the situation and his not being associated with what has happened so far is an advantage.

``I'm going to let that take its course because I'm not a part of that,'' he said. ``Everyone's got a clean slate with me there. I'm just looking forward to being part of a dynamic organization.''

Crandall was chosen from three candidates recommended by the state Board of Education. More than 80 applied for the director's position.

The other finalists were: Tony Apostle, a retired superintendent of Puyallup Public Schools in Puyallup, Wash.; and Norman Ridder, a superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, Mo.

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