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Washington • Sen. Mike Lee is changing up leadership in his Senate office ahead of his 2016 re-election and bringing on a former right-hand-man to former Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Lee has hired as his chief of staff Neil Ashdown, with whom he served in the Huntsman administration and is known as a media savvy and pragmatic aide to replace outgoing chief Boyd Matheson. Matheson, who had been splitting his time between Washington and Salt Lake City for his duties, will remain a senior adviser to the senator.

Lee's office called the moves "strategic."

"For the past two years my team has been focused on introducing and pursuing positive policy reforms based on Utah values," Lee said in a statement. "These personnel changes will increase my team's ability to further that message, grow support for these ideas, and serve the people of Utah."

Ashdown will start in January, and Matheson is expected to transition to Lee's political team.

Ashdown was Huntsman's chief of staff when Lee served as the governor's general counsel. Ashdown later went to Beijing to serve as a top aide when Huntsman was appointed the U.S. ambassador to China and remained in the country for a few months after Huntsman's return. When he returned, he served as deputy chief of staff on Huntsman's ill-fated presidential campaign.

Most recently, Ashdown was president of iSchool Campus LLC and prior to that worked as senior vice president of Zions Bank.