Adam J. Schafer, Deputy Director
Adam J. Schafer joined Montana Department of Commerce as Deputy Director in September, 2020. Prior to that he served in the Governor’s Office as a Deputy Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor and Director of Public Engagement. Previously he served as Montana’s Deputy Commissioner of Securities and Insurance and Chief of Staff for the Commissioner. Schafer served as executive director for the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators in Washington, D.C. for 11 years, before returning to Montana in 2012. He was born in Great Falls and grew up in Billings. He received his degree from North Central College in Naperville, IL, and lives in Helena with his wife Anjenette and son Leo.
Emilie Ritter Saunders, Director of Communications & Public Affairs
Emilie Ritter Saunders joined the Montana Department of Commerce 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.
Cheryl Cohen, Administrator, Montana Housing, and Interim Administrator, Community Development Division
Cheryl Cohen joined Montana Housing as Operations Manager in October 2018 and was hired as Division Administrator in May 2020. She is also currently serving as the Interim Administrator for the Community Development Division at Commerce. She previously served over eight years as a Community Development Specialist and Senior Community Development Specialist with the City of Seattle Office of Housing’s multifamily asset management unit. She has over 15 years of affordable housing compliance, property/asset management, and operations experience in the public and non-profit sectors. Cheryl is certified in low income housing tax credit compliance and is a Certified Specialist in HUD Occupancy. She has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Washington.
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.)