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Taking a Business Approach

In Focus
NAME:Misty Ann Giles
COMPANY:Montana Department of Administration
POSITION: Director & COO
Following an extraordinary career, Montana Department of Administration COO and Director Misty Ann Giles now oversees a budget of more than half a billion dollars and ensures she makes every cent count.

Montana Department of Administration’s COO and Director, Misty Ann Giles, stumbled into politics in 2006 when she was pursuing her graduate degree at the University of Georgia. Senator Sonny Perdue had become the state’s first Republican governor in over 130 years, but few gave the candidate much of a chance to win a second term.

However, a backlash against his incumbent Democratic opponent’s plan to change the state flag’s Confederate design saw Perdue grab an unlikely victory. And the then 23-year-old Giles pulled off some unlikely victories of her own that helped get him over the line.

“I led the campaigning for him in 25 counties where he wasn’t expected to win more than three, but he won 17,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “I was offered a job as a policy advisor on criminal justice, public safety and general government issues and suddenly had about 14 agencies under my belt.

“He was a big believer in hiring young kids and teaching them up, so there I was. It wasn’t long before I became a division budget director with 45 agencies and a combined US$2.5 billion in budget and appropriations under my control. Based on my master’s thesis, I pitched a criminal justice reform proposal and led the efforts in drafting a new package.”

“I became known for the 31 realignments that I carried out over two years to restructure the whole department.”

It was the beginning of an extraordinary career in public life that, 18 years later, saw her appointed to run Montana’s Department of Administration as well as serving as the state’s first-ever COO in a job specially created for her by Governor Greg Gianforte.

“I’m actually dual-hatted, or triple-hatted if you want to get technical, because I’m also the treasurer. It was an incredible opportunity as Montana is a beautiful state, even though it’s a little too cold for my blood for nine months of the year.”

Giles’ duties include overseeing business services to other state agencies including accounting, human resources, contracting, facilities, information technology and insurance. Her teams also regulate many of the state’s banks and financial institutions, as well as broadband internet.

An Unexpected Call

This rise to the top has included a couple of unexpected pivots. The first came after Giles decided to quit politics to return to law school in San Diego, where she became the first part-time student to be Editor in Chief of the publication, The San Diego Law Review, and also the first to teach classes.

But while still in her last semester of law school, she received a call from Perdue, who had been appointed Cabinet Secretary for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Trump administration.

“He asked me to join his team as a senior advisor on a variety of policy issues. Later, I moved to Rural Development within the USDA as Chief of Staff, leading an organization of 500 offices and 5,500 employees across the country with a budget of US$250 billion.

“I became known for the 31 realignments that I carried out over two years to restructure the whole department.”

“It was an honor to work with Director Giles on a first-in-the-nation, post-pandemic integrated workforce and real estate project. The Director’s leadership and vision ensured the combined efforts of our teams delivered a positive impact for Montana.” – Wil Carroll, Principal, Deloitte Consulting


After Donald Trump’s election defeat in 2020, Giles headed off to work in the private sector, but once again, her plans abruptly changed.

“I got poached into the job I have now. I didn’t know Governor Gianforte or anyone on his team, but I got this random message,” she recalls. “I told them, ‘No, I have this job lined up’, but they encouraged me to meet with him, and I fell in love with his vision of government.

“He shares my view that it should be run like a business, and he wanted somebody who understood all the moving parts.”

A Big New Role

After a couple of meetings in Washington DC, Gianforte was so impressed that he created a new role for her as not only Director of Administration, but also the state’s inaugural COO.

“We’ve had a pretty heavy agenda over the last two years, using a data-driven solution and learnings from Deloitte,” Giles explains.

This involved a thorough review and overhaul of their space portfolio, interviewing more than 100 managers and thousands of employees as they analyzed more than 350 job codes.

“We developed a uniform approach to hybrid telework and then flipped it to a review of our 93,000 square meters of lease space, reducing our lease footprint and securing more than US$60 million to modernize Montana’s state workplace.”

Giles also partnered with Civic Initiatives to get better value procurement deals for Montana’s taxpayers. She leads a US$938 million ConnectMT broadband program that is improving the quality of online services and providing more access to the state’s residents, a quarter of whom currently have limited broadband internet connection.

“The human side of change is hard for people so we’ve made sure they know that it isn’t a power grab, it’s intended to make their lives easier.”

“It’s really about thinking about what we can achieve in an individual department before looking at expanding them further,” Giles explains.

“Obviously, the human side of change is hard for people, so we’ve made sure they know that it isn’t a power grab, it’s intended to make their lives easier, help them understand their role in the business and create better opportunities.”

“Civic Initiatives is a premier national public procurement consulting firm. Our team comprises experienced government executives, offering expertise in program transformation and technical implementation support to public organizations. We are proud to have supported Montana in these important transformation efforts.” – Dustin Lanier, Founder/Principal Consultant, Civic Initiatives


Giles also realized that many state employees felt as though they were stagnating in agencies where they had no room to grow.

“Those folks are just kind of stuck with something that they happen to be good at. But we’re trying to figure out how they can have a career,” she explains.

“It’s hard to navigate across 12 departments and 16,000 employees to get that message across and make sure everybody’s pointed in the right direction, but they’re so excited that we’re making a whole new structure for them that has real teeth.”

As Giles proved while campaigning in those Georgian counties all those years ago, she has an instinct for winning hearts and minds with persuasive arguments built on 20 years of serving the public.

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