Idaho controller resigns, Woolf appointed

BOISE, Idaho (AP) Brandon Woolf was appointed Monday by the governor as the state's new controller after the elected office holder decided to focus on her recovery from an automobile accident.

Woolf was named temporary controller in July, with the expectation that 73-year-old Donna Jones, a Republican, would return to her job.

Jones is now walking but said in a letter that she would retire from elected office, effective immediately, because medical officials expect her recovery to take as long as two years. She's currently staying at an assisted-living facility near St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise, where she has multiple physical therapy sessions every day.

"I found myself pondering how I may best fulfill my sacred oath as I continue to heal," Jones wrote in the two-page letter Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. "''The conclusion I've reached is that the people of Idaho would be best served by a state controller who is able to fully devote her or his time and abilities to the job."

Idaho's controller is the chief fiscal officer for state government. Duties include maintaining all accounting and financial records, paying all state bills and employees, and preparing an annual financial report

Under Jones, the controller's office developed a reputation for transparency and customer service, something Woolf says he plans to continue.

Woolf joined the office as an intern in 1997 and gradually rose through the ranks to become Jones' deputy chief of staff. He plans to run for the partisan office in 2014.

His appointment is subject to approval by the Idaho Senate, where it's unlikely to encounter serious hurdles.

As controller, Woolf faces some tough decisions as a member of the five-person Idaho Land Board, which oversees state endowment properties that generate proceeds to support beneficiaries including public schools and mental hospitals.

Among other things, Woolf will help decide what to do with coveted-but-controversial cottage lease sites on Priest Lake and Payette Lake, which Idaho aims to eventually divest over time and reinvest the proceeds.

The state hopes to switch to other more-stable assets that don't come with the same emotional baggage including rising payments that many longtime leaseholders have bitterly protested.

"It will take some time to evaluate that," Woolf said. "That may require some tough decisions."

Jones, a former six-term state lawmaker from Payette, broke her neck in a May 25 accident that occurred on a personal trip.

Police say Jones drifted off the road then overcorrected before her Cadillac Escalade rolled. Authorities credit her use of a seatbelt with helping save her life.

In a sign of her progress, Jones greeted Otter at the door of her room at the assisted living facility during a recent visit.

"Her spirits are great," he said.