This is an open letter of heartfelt gratitude for all of the good folks of Ravalli County who have supported my bid for county commissioner. After deeper consideration and an honest assessment of my personal capacity, I have withdrawn my candidacy. The work and commitment of commissioner and the enormity of the redress that is required at this point, requires 110% of any candidate. The people of Ravalli County deserve nothing less. As a wife, mother of three young boys and business owner of 17 years, little time would be left over for the people and things that I care about most.
Over the past four months, incredible volunteers and I have collected hundreds of signatures so that I could qualify as an Independent candidate for District 5. It has been a great experience, meeting people and listening to their serious concerns. There are some important takeaways that I will share and hope will be useful for those who are running as candidates (for any elected office) and for county citizens.
There is a huge contingent of voters who feel they are not being heard. Some are aligned with a political party and many are not, but all care deeply about the state of affairs in the Bitterroot. Presently, there are vocal and extreme views that are drowning out the middle majority who just want and need the commission to stick to the purview of their job (local issues, administrative responsibilities and providing county services). Some seem obsessed with vilifying national government and are channeling that distrust and dissatisfaction through to the local level, neglecting county matters and impacting county workers. By the way, if there are any commissioners who really want to know if there is broad public support for federal lands to be transferred to the state, run a statewide ballot initiative and let the people of Montana decide – you will have your answer! I doubt that will happen but please question house and senate candidates to see where they stand on this issue and expect to see this play out during the next legislative session.
Government can be good, is necessary, and is expected for critical things – stakeholders pay for and expect services to be provided and to run efficiently (i.e. family planning). County workers deserve to be treated respectfully – the current work climate is toxic. In order for any organization, public or private, to reach its fullest potential, leaders must foster a positive work culture. Organizational excellence can be attained through empowerment, mutual respect, shared goals, a collectively focused mission, open and meaningful communication and lastly, equity. If we are serious about solving our problems, we would bring everyone and all good ideas to the table. This is not limited to the county board and workforce – citizens have great ideas too and are a critical piece in the process. Putting labels on people and placing them in boxes prevents objective listening and a missed opportunity for possible solutions. Additionally, citizens expect personnel to be hired and positions appointed based on an individual’s qualifications, knowledge, skills, experience and competencies.
Community development = economic development. Community development has a broad range of inputs, including tangible stuff like skate parks and beautification – but also vitally important are attitudes, values and partnerships. If we want to attract new businesses and therefore create jobs, a fertile and welcoming environment that conveys “Ravalli County is a great place to live and work” needs to be broadly expressed. The negative image, anti-government attitude and endless press over debacles and drama can be a red flag for potential prospects and hinder economic progress. Too, partner agencies rely on supportive leadership from the county. Those relationships are tarnished and need serious repair.
Finally, ethics, not morality, should be the driving factor in the decision making process. There is a difference, and it is a worthwhile endeavor for elected and potential officials to examine this further and make that distinction. The public interest is paramount to any commissioner’s individual personal interest. Voters – please challenge candidates to go beyond general talking points (single themes like jobs, freedom and transparency are all good things but not substantive enough), dig deeper into the issues and demand specifics.
I truly appreciate those who believe in my message and the opportunity I have had to contribute to the public discussion. Meaningful, objective and friendly debate is essential to the fabric of healthy communities. I hope current and future officials will embrace and practice civil discourse – our quality of life in Ravalli County depends upon it. I will continue to do the public service that I love in Darby as school trustee and community advocate and look forward to an opportunity of serving Ravalli County in a larger capacity in the future.