Flathead County

County Hires New Administrator

Coast Guard officer Peter Melnick will replace retiring Mike Pence as the head of Flathead County operations

By Micah Drew
The Commissioners Chambers at the Flathead County Courthouse on March 11, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Flathead County Commission at its April 13 meeting unanimously voted to appoint Peter Melnick as the new Flathead County administrator to replace Mike Pence, who retires at the end of May.

“We are thrilled to have Pete on board,” Commissioner Randy Brodehl said. “He and his family will be an asset to our community. Having Pete here will help soften the impacts of Mike Pence’s retirement.”

Melnick attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where he was the quarterback for the football team, and served as a helicopter pilot, flight instructor and aircraft commander across the country.

From 2007 to 2012, Melnick earned a master’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Spring Hill College, and a Master of Business Administration from George Mason University.

Melnick spent the latter part of his Coast Guard career serving in various leadership roles as a deputy budget chief, operations executive, press secretary to the commandant and deputy director of human resources.   

He most recently worked at the Department of Homeland Security leading the Executive Strategy Group for the assistant secretary in the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office. 

During his interview with the county commission in March, Melnick acknowledged there would be challenges in transitioning to local government, but expressed excitement about the job.

“I [see this as] an opportunity to continue to serve; that is what I do,” Melnick said during his interview. “Instead of serving through military service, I get to serve through public service, so I’m excited about that opportunity.”

Melnick said his work as a human resources director was most relevant to the position as county administrator. He said he oversaw his department’s roughly $5 billion payroll account, in addition to a $26 million operating budget. He also had 10 people reporting directly to him, including several senior officers.

“I was a brand new captain … and I was selected for that position because I’m very good at working with people, particularly people with different personalities,” Melnick said. “They wanted someone that would have new ideas, but also respect the processes and policies and experiences of those that reported to me.”

Melnick described himself as a friendly, collaborative and agile leader who puts a lot of emphasis on the culture of the workplace.

When asked about navigating the political sphere, Melnick demurred, citing that as a member of the military, he was apolitical.

“My role here is to give you the best advice, data that you need to make your decisions, and then work with you to figure out what your intent is and how we can execute it quickly, efficiently, and that best serves the communities of Flathead County,” Melnick said. “I’m not going to get involved in politics — it’s just not my nature — and if I’m asked to, I will recuse myself from those types of discussions.”

Melnick will move from Washington D.C. with his wife and six kids before transitioning into his new role in June 7. His initial contract term will be for three years. He takes over for Pence, who led the county for 16 years.  

“I was impressed by Pete’s passion, enthusiasm and willingness to learn from those who came before him,” Commissioner Brad Abell said. “I have the highest faith in his ability.”

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