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My Priorities

I’m not a politician—far from it. I’m straightforward and won’t blow smoke, which is why I won’t make empty promises about what I can achieve before I’ve even stepped into office. The truth is, until I’m in the thick of it, I won’t fully understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. However, what I can promise is a commitment to restoring trust in our county government through transparency, accountability, and unwavering dedication to the people of Hill County. That said, there are a few key commitments I feel confident I can make if I am elected as Hill County Commissioner.

My primary focus is to restore the public’s trust in our county government and I recognize the deep-seated need for transparency and accountability in doing so. My foremost promise is to open the doors of communication wide, ensuring that the public knows exactly what is happening within the commissioner’s office. This starts with making my work calendar fully accessible to the public. Whether I’m in the office or attending to county matters elsewhere, residents will have clear insight into my actions, fostering confidence that I am working diligently on their behalf.

Moreover, I aim to collaborate with County Treasurer Sandy Brown to establish regular reporting on county funds and expenses. This reporting will be designed in a simple, easy-to-understand format, enabling residents to stay informed about how their tax dollars are being utilized. Additionally, I propose implementing a triple-bid process for selecting county vendors, with all bids and potential associations or conflicts made public. This will ensure fairness and accountability in the procurement process, further enhancing trust in county operations.

Recognizing the critical need for improvement, I pledge to address the current lack of effective communication from the commissioner’s office. Leveraging my expertise as a digital project manager, I am committed to implementing processes to guarantee efficient responses to inquiries from other county offices. Additionally, I propose establishing a voluntary county-wide email and text messaging list for residents to receive important notices and informational newsletters, improving communication and community engagement across Hill County. Furthermore, I advocate for the creation of a dedicated Hill County Facebook page akin to those of the Health Department and Sheriff’s Office, providing residents with a centralized platform for accessing important notices and updates. Together, these initiatives will enhance communication channels, strengthen accountability, and build a more connected and informed community across Hill County.

While I have identified other issues within the county, these promises represent tangible steps toward restoring trust and accountability in our local government. Ultimately, I pledge to work tirelessly for the people of Hill County, advocating for their interests and striving to build a stronger, more transparent community.

The Issues

Identifying key areas for improvement is essential in moving our county forward. Below, I outline the pressing issues that I believe warrant attention and action. While I cannot guarantee immediate solutions, these are the critical areas I aim to address through open dialogue, innovative approaches, and collaborative efforts.

County Roads

Maintaining our county roads is vital for everyday life in Hill County. Whether it’s accessing homes, commuting to work, transporting goods, or supporting local businesses, our roads are the lifeline of our community. Without dependable roads, our entire infrastructure suffers.

Prioritization: Currently, the county road system faces significant challenges. Despite efforts as part of the 2024 proposed road mill levy to categorize roads into three priority levels, addressing solely the highest-priority roads is a process that could take several decades. We need a more efficient system that considers not only traffic and usage but also the safety of drivers and their vehicles. Implementing a ticket-based system for residents to report road issues will ensure accountability and timely repairs.

Gravel: Another pressing issue is the accessibility of gravel. With limited funds, the county struggles to compete with private companies for gravel. Exploring modern technology and collaborative agreements with landowners could provide more affordable access to this essential resource.

Operators: Additionally, a seriously pressing issue lies in the shortage of operators. The county often invests significant resources in training new operators, only to lose them to private construction companies offering higher wages. Implementing a structured training program with a mandatory tenure requirement could help retain skilled operators, ensuring continuity in road maintenance efforts.

Equipment: Moreover, the county’s reliance on outdated equipment poses a significant obstacle to efficient road maintenance. Much of our equipment is over 40 years old and requires extensive maintenance, hindering operational efficiency. Furthermore, without proper vetting by experienced operators, new equipment purchases risk inefficiency and financial strain. Addressing these challenges requires exploring solutions such as lease or buyback programs to replace outdated equipment and mitigate the financial burden, including the looming $300,000+ balloon payment on recent equipment acquisitions.

Through strategic investments and proactive measures, we can pave the way for safer, more resilient road infrastructure in Hill County.

Hill County Detention Center

While visiting the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Jamie Ross gave me an impromptu tour of the Hill County Detention Center. I had the opportunity to tour the entire facility, from storage and IT rooms to holding cells and the minimum-security wing, and gained a firsthand understanding of the challenges facing our county’s law enforcement.

Staffing Challenges: One of the most pressing issues at the detention center is severe understaffing. Detention officers are stretched thin, juggling multiple responsibilities beyond their primary duties. With limited personnel, officers often take on roles traditionally handled by other staff, from monitoring diabetic patients’ blood sugar levels to performing custodial tasks like sweeping and mopping. The workload is compounded by the fact that only two county maintenance workers are responsible for all county buildings, including the detention center.

Mental Health Concerns: The lack of adequate mental health resources in Hill County is evident within the detention center. Without access to a regional mental health facility, individuals with severe mental health issues often end up incarcerated, contributing to overcrowding. During my tour, I witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by detention officers when an inmate in a holding cell exhibited signs of suicidal behavior. Addressing mental health concerns requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond the scope of the detention center’s capabilities.

Structural Challenges: The Hill County Detention Center, a twenty-five-year-old facility, faces structural challenges due to heavy usage over the years. Plumbing issues, while continually addressed by the limited maintenance staff, consistently crop up and have led to recurring flooding in cells and other areas. Additionally, wear and tear on the building’s interior, including paint damage and leaking windows during severe rainfall, highlight the need for structural improvements to ensure the safety and well-being of inmates and staff.

Essential Facilities: These plumbing issues often compromise essential facilities within the detention center, such as functioning toilets and showers. Cells are frequently closed off to accommodate repairs, further exacerbating overcrowding. The library, a vital resource for inmates, has suffered a ceiling collapse due to plumbing-related issues, underscoring the need for comprehensive renovations to address these longstanding issues.

While the county has made several upgrades to the facility, including the installation of a new security camera system, a digital control system, and a full-body scanner for inmates, more needs to be done to address the underlying challenges facing the detention center. Additional funding and staffing are crucial to ensuring inmates’ and staff’s safety and well-being.

MMIP & Meth/Fentanyl in Native COmmunities

The intersection of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) and the influx of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Native communities presents a significant challenge in Hill County, particularly within the Chippewa-Cree Rocky Boy’s Reservation. These drugs, often trafficked by cartels, prey on vulnerable populations and exacerbate existing social challenges. Recent events, such as the tragic murders of Darin Caplette and Thomas Yallup in Box Elder, underscore the urgency of addressing these issues.

Collaboration: To address these complex issues, collaboration with the Rocky Boy Tribal Council, Rocky Boy Police Department, and other authorities is paramount. This collaboration should focus on understanding the root causes of drug trafficking and violence while also providing support and resources to those affected.

Culture & Traditions: Cultural reconnection offers a pathway to resilience, providing young people with a sense of identity and purpose that shields them from the dangers of substance abuse. By engaging youth in traditional practices and providing opportunities for cultural connection, they can strengthen their sense of identity and belonging, making them less susceptible to the allure of drugs and alcohol. By investing in cultural initiatives and holistic support services, we can empower our communities to resist the allure of drugs.

Moreover, addressing the demand for drugs within our communities requires a comprehensive approach. This includes investing in education, prevention programs, and access to addiction treatment and mental health services. Together, we can work towards creating safer and healthier environments for all residents of Hill County.

Technology Usage and Efficiency

In Hill County, there exists a concerning reluctance to embrace modern technology within our county offices. This aversion not only leads to inefficiencies in personnel hours and material use but also hinders effective communication with the public. It’s time for a fundamental shift towards leveraging technology to streamline operations and enhance transparency in our local government.

A prime example of inefficiency and waste is the widespread use of paper time sheets across county departments. Employees print out and fill out these time sheets by hand, often requiring significant time recalling hours worked if not completed daily. The entire process, from time entry to processing and issuing paychecks, remains highly manual and prone to errors. There are numerous cost-effective software systems available that allow employees to log their time through a smartphone or web app. These systems can automate time tracking, check for errors, and seamlessly integrate with payroll processes, reducing administrative burden and enhancing accuracy.

Our county Sheriff’s Department has, commendably, begun digitizing records. However, digitization remains a time-consuming process, and it will take sustained effort before these improvements begin to yield significant benefits for efficiency and service delivery.

The recent launch of the Hill County website underscores the urgent need for basic technological competency. The site’s unprofessional design and functional inadequacies not only reflect poorly on our county but also hinder compliance with state requirements, leading to fines for non-posted meeting agendas and minutes. A robust, user-friendly website is essential for attracting businesses and residents to Hill County and ensuring transparent governance.

Modern technology can revolutionize road management, too. Implementing a ticketing-based system would allow the roads department to better schedule and communicate road repairs. This system could provide residents with real-time updates on repair progress, addressing concerns about transparency and efficiency.

Furthermore, technology facilitates rapid information dissemination. Establishing official county social media accounts and leveraging email and text notifications are crucial for timely public communication. With the Havre paper transitioning from daily to weekly and platforms such as Spotify and the proliferation of podcasts replacing radio, traditional media sources are declining in relevance and efficacy The post office, once a central hub for community notices, has similarly lost its prominence.

Embracing modern technology isn’t just about efficiency; it’s about accountability and fiscal responsibility. By reducing the waste of time, effort, materials, and finances, we can pave the way for a more effective and responsive county government. Let’s commit to harnessing technology to propel Hill County into a more connected and prosperous future.

County Employee Pay Schedule

The current county employee pay schedule presents significant challenges for our hardworking workforce. Various county employees, including teachers and law enforcement, rely on timely compensation to support themselves and their families.

Transitioning to a bi-weekly pay schedule is imperative for several reasons. Firstly, it provides employees with more frequent access to their earnings, allowing them to better manage their finances and meet their obligations in a timely manner. This is especially crucial for individuals living paycheck to paycheck, who often struggle to make ends meet under the current monthly system. Moreover, a bi-weekly pay schedule offers greater consistency and predictability, reducing the uncertainty surrounding paycheck issuance. Employees can plan their expenses more effectively, alleviating the stress and anxiety associated with financial insecurity.

These concerns about financial strain and late payments are exacerbated in times when paychecks have been issued late in the past. However, by transitioning to a bi-weekly pay schedule, we can address these broader issues and prioritize the well-being and financial stability of our county employees. Providing more frequent and reliable access to their earnings empowers our workforce to thrive and continue serving our community with dedication and excellence.

County Weapons Policy

The current county weapons policy prohibits the posession or carrying of weapons of any kind on county property, in county vehicles, or while on county time. This includes firearms, explosives, and knives with blades longer than six inches. Exceptions are made for peace officers, security guards, etc., as approved by the county commission.

As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I believe this policy needs serious reconsideration. The right to bear arms is inherent and should be honored, regardless of whether someone is on county property, in a county vehicle, or on county time. This policy only hampers those who carry ethically and legally without deterring those with ill intent.

One major issue with the current policy is its vagueness. Terms like “on county time” and “county property” are not clearly defined. For instance, some officials, such as the commissioners, are technically on “county time” 24/7. Does this mean they are prohibited from possessing a weapon unless they take a vacation day? Additionally, county property includes places like Beaver Creek Park, where many people carry knives and firearms for camping and self-defense. This could be a serious concern, especially in light of the recent grizzly bear sighting. This policy could even be interpreted to prohibit carrying weapons on county roads, which is unreasonable.

At a minimum, the County Weapons Policy needs clarification and more detailed definitions. However, I firmly believe that we should abolish the policy entirely, with an exception of the county courtroom. I understand that completely eliminating the policy might make some people uncomfortable, so I propose a compromise: require that anyone carrying on county property possess a State of Montana concealed carry permit. Alternatively, there could be an option to register with the county sheriff to carry on county property or while working for the county.

Our right to bear arms, as codified in the Bill of Rights, is a fundamental, God-given right that should not be infringed upon by any government policy. It’s time to revisit and revise the current County Weapons Policy and work towards one that respects this fundamental right while ensuring the safety and clarity needed for our community.

Check Back & Reach Out

We’re committed to keeping you informed and engaged throughout our campaign journey. Stay tuned as we update this section based on ongoing conversations with county offices and residents. Your input matters—reach out with questions, suggestions or to arrange a meet-and-greet in your community. Let’s work together to shape a brighter future for Hill County.

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