Tara Rice, Director
Tara Rice has been nominated by Governor Bullock to be the Director of the Department of Commerce and is currently up for confirmation by the Montana Senate.
Tara comes to this position from a public and private sector background in economic development. Tara previously served in the Rural Development area of the US Department of Agriculture, helping to manage USDA’s investments in rural infrastructure, housing and business development. Tara went on to lead the work of the White House Rural Council, driving efforts for rural investment across federal agencies and with state and local partners. Most recently Tara was in private legal practice as a transactional attorney, working with teams of bankers, developers and engineers to build infrastructure and energy projects around the world.
Tara was raised on a ranch north of Choteau, Montana. Growing up, Tara was active in Teton County 4-H and Choteau FFA. She is a graduate of Choteau High School, Seattle University and Yale Law School.
Marty Tuttle, Deputy Director
Marty Tuttle has worked for the state of Montana since late 1994 and joined the Montana Department of Commerce as Chief Legal Counsel in September 2001. In May 2018, Marty became the Deputy Director for Commerce. Over the last 17 years, Marty has worked extensively with every program in Commerce. In addition, he has worked with the Montana Board of Investments, the Montana Facility Finance Authority and the Montana Board of Housing.
He received his undergraduate degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and his law degree from McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. Prior to his tenure at the department, he worked for the Department of Environmental Quality and was, among other things, lead legal counsel for the state of Montana in the Pegasus Gold Corporation bankruptcy cases which included resolving legal claims and then recovering on reclamation bonds issued by USF&G, CNA, Safeco, and National Union AIG.
Marty has received two Governor’s Awards for Excellence during his tenure with the state of Montana; one from Governor Marc Racicot for his work on the Pegasus Gold Corporation cases and one from Governor Brian Schweitzer for his work reestablishing the Community Technical Assistance Program within Commerce. In July 2015, Governor Steve Bullock appointed Marty as a Trustee to the Montana Public Employees Retirement Board.He was confirmed by the Montana Senate in April 2017.
Emilie Ritter Saunders, Communications Director
Emilie Ritter Saunders joined the Montana Department of Commerce as Communications Director in early 2017. Emilie is an award-winning multimedia storyteller and communications strategist whose career began in journalism. Prior to joining Commerce, Emilie spent nearly two years as the Communications Director at the Montana Office of Public Instruction under Superintendent Denise Juneau. In 2016, Emilie earned a Montana Governor's Award for Excellence for her contributions to growing the Graduation Matters Montana initiative's communications strategy.
Emilie spent a decade as a public radio journalist in Montana and Idaho. Her work has been heard on the BBC, CBC, Reuters, National Native News, and NPR. Emilie is a Montanan and graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
Jennifer Olson, Administrator, Community Development Division
Jennifer Olson is the Administrator of the Community Development Division. Born in Duluth, Minn., she was raised in the Air Force and has had the fortunate opportunity to call Montana home for the past 30 years. She graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Montana State University and is a certified National Development Council Housing Development Finance Professional.
Her work began by serving communities and impoverished families with non-profit and public service. She has continued to engage and serve families and communities through her 16-year involvement and oversight of federal and state programs. Jennifer is driven by the successful collaboration with communities and the unique opportunity to live in this great state while assisting all Montana communities with their goals. Jennifer sees the Community Development Division as a valued partner for every community to help achieve successes for Montana communities, providing assistance through activities related to planning, economic development, infrastructure, community facilities, school facilities, housing, and downtown development supporting communities, businesses and organizations.
Bruce Brensdal, Administrator, Montana Housing
Bruce Brensdal was born and raised in Plentywood Montana. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting from Eastern Montana College in Billings and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He has been the Administrator of Montana Housing at the Montana Department of Commerce since 2000. This includes the Section 8 programs as well as the Montana Board of Housing. He was previously the Multi-Family Program Manager with the Montana Board of Housing from 1995 through 2000. During this time, Bruce managed the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit programs, the Multi-Family Bond Programs and the Reverse Annuity Mortgage (RAM) Program. He previously worked for the Montana Department of Revenue as an auditor for five and a half years.
Jenny Pelej, Administrator, Office of Tourism and Business Development
Jenny Pelej is the Division Administrator of the Office of Tourism and Business Development. Though she originally came to the state from Wisconsin, Jenny’s Montana connections run deep. The majority of her more than 19-year career in communications, promotions and policy has been spent working in government or non-profit organizations throughout the state. The remaining years of her career were spent with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Jenny holds a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources and Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in Public Relations from Montana State University. Jenny loves trail running, fishing, skiing and exploring all Montana has to offer with her son. (And since she came to Montana, she has lived in Helena twice, as well as Billings, Kalispell, Missoula and Bigfork.)