Top Luna deputy leaving Idaho

One of Tom Luna’s top deputies has accepted an out-of-state job – one that will pay him more than the governor.

Tom Luna
Tom Luna

Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Hancock will become the director of South Dakota’s Legislative Research Council.

Under the new position, Hancock will earn $125,000, the Associated Press reports. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard earns $104,002 and is provided with a residence. Daugaard’s chief of staff takes home $111,395.

Last year in Idaho, Hancock earned $89,794, according to the Accountable Idaho payroll database maintained by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Gov. Butch Otter, meanwhile, took home $116,110 that same year.

Luna’s chief of staff Luci Willits announced Hancock’s departure to the staff on Monday.

“It’s an exciting position and Jason was the top candidate of a national search,” Willits wrote to the staff. “He will oversee the daily operations of the South Dakota Legislature equivalent to the director position here at Legislative Services Office.”

During his tenure at the State Department of Education and working for the state, Hancock was regarded as a policy wonk with a near unique grounding in complex issues. He helped draft legislation, explained the implications of education bills to lawmakers and dissected the history of school reform efforts over the past 20 years.

Lawmakers sometimes joked that if Hancock ever left his job, nobody in Idaho would be able to explain the origins of education policy.

Hancock’s departure marks the third major exit from Luna’s State Department of Education in about a month. In late May, Communications Director Melissa McGrath took a job with the Council of Chief State School Officers. Her replacement, Camille Wells, started a new job with the Idaho Education Network on Monday.

Luna, who is not seeking a third term as schools chief, has said he expects more education department staffers to depart as his term ends.

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