Gov. Laura Kelly selected an administrator in Idaho's prison system Thursday to continue a campaign to resolve prison overcrowding, corrections officer shortages and other budget and morale challenges at the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Jeff Zmuda, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Correction, was chosen by the governor to serve as Kansas' corrections secretary starting July 1.

"He will continue our work to rebuild the agency while bringing new ideas and leadership to Kansas," Kelly said. "This is a difficult time for many in the Department of Corrections, but I am committed to address the problems."

The acting secretary in Kansas, Roger Werholtz, agreed to lead the agency for a brief period after taking the job in January. Werholtz' top deputy will serve as interim secretary for one month until Zmuda moves to Kansas.

"I look forward to being on the ground and working with the dedicated men and women of the agency to address the needs and challenges facing Kansas facilities," Zmuda said.

Kelly wrestled with the 2019 Legislature over a $35 million budget request to raise salaries of corrections officers to improve recruiting and retention of staff. There are 400 job vacancies in the state's prison system, including about 70 at El Dorado Correctional Facility. Inadequate staffing contributed to inmate unrest in 2017 and 2018 at several prisons in Kansas and inspired an emergency decree in February compelling overtime shifts by officers at El Dorado.

The Republican-led Legislature pushed back against much of Kelly's corrections package and deferred the bulk of budget decisions to the State Finance Council. That oversight council includes the governor and top Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. The first meeting chaired by Kelly will be June 5, and corrections issues will be on the agenda.

The budget passed by lawmakers contained $2.5 million for pay raises at El Dorado, but decisions about salary increases at other facilities was left to the finance council. The governor said she would urge the council to correct the compensation imbalance among prison facilities by adopting fair raises for all state corrections officers.

"It creates a morale problem," Werholtz said recently on Capitol Insider, a podcast of The Topeka Capital-Journal. "It’s impossible for me to tell an officer who has been beaten or stabbed while working at Hutchinson or Lansing that the work she or he has done is of less value than the work that’s done by an officer at El Dorado who encounters the same risks."

The governor and Werholtz also sought appropriations to alleviate inmate crowding by transferring male inmates to Kansas jails or out-of-state private prisons and to relocate women inmates to a vacant space in a juvenile facility. The council also will decide whether to allocate $4.5 million for treatment of a Hepatitis C outbreak affecting 725 inmates.

Kelly said she appreciated Werholtz' willingness to work through the transition from Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer to her Democratic administration.

"He dug deep and shared the problems that had been concealed for eight years," Kelly said. "Not only that, he presented a plan to address the many challenges we face."

The governor said Zmuda has a record of management success in the Idaho Department of Correction and of working collaboratively with legislators, the judiciary, and county and state officials. Previously, he was the chief of prisons in Idaho with authority over operations at nine state-run facilities.

Werholtz’ final day at the Department of Corrections will be May 31. Chuck Simmons, deputy secretary for facilities management, will work as interim secretary from June 1 until July 1.

"We hope that we are leaving KDOC better than we found it and believe that under Jeff Zmuda’s leadership it can achieve the expectations we all have," Werholtz said.