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Kotek picks interim chief to head Oregon Lottery

Gov. Tina Kotek announced on Wednesday that she had named the interim head of the Oregon Lottery the permanent director, pending state Senate approval.

Michael Wells has served at the helm since December. Before that, he was assistant director for security and also the lottery’s cyber crime manager. As chief, he serves as the secretary and executive officer of the Oregon Lottery Commission, a five-member board appointed by the governor that oversees the lottery, and is responsible for the administration and management of the agency.

The lottery, created in 1984, is the second-biggest revenue generator for the state, after income taxes. According to a news release, it funneled about $900 million back to the state last fiscal year and paid players about $16 billion in prizes through its wide-ranging offerings, from Powerball and Megabucks to 60 video games.

The lottery, with nearly 450 employees, is self-funded and helps pay for state parks and natural habitats, public schools, veteran services, Outdoor School and economic development.

“It is imperative that the director is an experienced leader who will champion transparency and accountability,” Kotek said in a release. “During his time at the Oregon Lottery, Michael has worked closely with staff, the commission and stakeholders to lead with the highest standards of security and integrity.”

Unlike a few other lottery managers, Wells does not live out of state. Spokeswoman Melanie Mesaros said he resides in the Salem area and earns about $270,900 a year.

Before joining the lottery, Wells spent more than 24 years working in local, state and federal law enforcement. Recently, he served as a special agent for more than 10 years in the organized crime section of the Oregon Department of Justice and was a member of the FBI’s Cyber Crime Task Force. His specialty was conducting computer intrusion investigations.  

“During my tenure as interim director, I’ve had the privilege of leading an exceptional team dedicated to ensuring the lottery’s ongoing support of its beneficiaries and key programs across our state,” Wells said in a statement. “I appreciate Governor Kotek’s trust in my leadership and look forward to leading the work of the Oregon Lottery in funding critical programs that serve Oregonians.”

Wells is a board member of the Oregon Peace Officer Association and has served on other public safety and cyber security boards. 

The Senate is expected to consider his appointment in September.