By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
In a rematch of the most contested race of the 2001 Havre City Council election, incumbent Democrat Rick Pierson will face Republican Jerry Hanson for a four-year City Council seat in Ward 2 on Tuesday.
In an election fiasco that went on for months in 2001, Pierson was initially declared the winner by a margin of one vote - 293-292. A Nov. 9 recount showed Hanson the winner by the same one-vote margin. After close examination of the ballots, three ballots - two for Hanson, and one for Pierson - were thrown out because they had not been stamped with an official seal. The race was declared a tie, and two months later came before the Havre City Council for a vote. In January 2002 the council elected Pierson to the seat by a vote of 5-2. He also was elected president of the council.
Hanson, 48, is the agricultural parts manager at Tilleman Motor Co. He said the close result in the last election was one reason he decided to run again.
"I just hope that people realize that their votes do count," he said.
Pierson, a materials clerk for General Electric, declined to comment on the prospect of facing Hanson a second time.
"A run for City Council is a run for City Council, and it's up to the voters to choose the one they want to represent them," he said.
Pierson, 52, said some of the important issues facing the city include improving and maintaining the city's infrastructure, labor negotiations and the budget, but that money is the limiting factor.
"Everything we do costs money," he said. "We can only work at the pace of the financing we have to do these things."
Pierson said he would like to see more city support for the Tri-Agency Task Force. The task force is a law enforcement group formed to crack down on illegal drug activity in a six-county area. It is made up of officers from the city of Havre, Hill County and a group of other law enforcement departments including the sheriff's offices in Phillips, Chouteau, Liberty, Judith Basin and Blaine counties, the Chinook Police Department, and the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy tribal police.
Each member agency is required to contribute financially to the task force. Money seized in drug-related arrests is used to reimburse member agencies.
"I would like to see in the future maybe more money and more manpower into the Tri-Agency Task Force," he said. "If in fact we do have clandestine (methamphetamine) cookers in Havre, we can erase that from our community."
Hanson said he is not campaigning on any specific issues, but would like to see "balance and a common-sense approach to the council."
"It's been pretty one-sided for a long time, in terms of parties," on the council, he said, although he said the mayor and the council probably have a good working relationship. "I think the mayor gets along well with anybody," he said.
Hanson was born in Havre and raised on his family's farm north of Havre. He attended St. Jude Thaddeus School and graduated from Havre High School in 1976.
After graduation he worked for a local grain elevator and on an assembly line for Big Bud Manufacturing in Havre. He worked as a mechanic at North Star Dodge Chrysler before being hired at Tilleman Motors in 1981, where he worked as a mechanic until becoming the parts manager for the company's agriculture department earlier this year.
Hanson was a member of the Havre Jaycees between 1989 and 1996. He became a member of the Hill County Fair Board in 1994, and has served on various committees on the board. He is a member of St. Jude's Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus.
He is married to Linda Hanson and has two sons and a daughter.
Pierson has been a member of the Havre City Council since 1993.
He was born and raised in Havre and graduated from Havre High School in 1969. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War until 1973. He worked for Safeway as an assistant manager in Bozeman and then Havre until 1979, when he started his own grocery store, which he ran until 1981.
Pierson then worked for various Havre businesses until 1995, when he went to work as a materials clerk for General Electric.
He is a member of the Hill County Democratic Party.
Pierson has six children. He is engaged to be married to Sara Fox next summer.
Hanson said he thinks the council needs to try to take out unnecessary spending from the budget.
"They need to really sit down and look at it and cut out any nonessential things that we can," he said, adding that that doesn't necessarily mean jobs.
Pierson said most of the cutting in budgets should be done by department heads.
"The department heads have to figure out how to cut the money from their budgets. The City Council can't micromanage the departments," he said. He said that might mean keeping equipment longer and finding other ways to cut back.
Pierson, the council's most vocal opponent of the city giving financial help to the Heritage Center, said he thinks the city's contribution to the Heritage Center is exactly what it should be. In July he voted against the resolution that provided the center with in-kind services like snow removal and janitorial services, citing promises that were made at the time the building was purchased that it would not cost taxpayers any money.
Hanson said the city should have a role in the Heritage Center.
"I think they should be involved in it, but I don't think it should cost the city money. I don't know where to draw the line with it right now," he said.
Hanson said he supports further investigation into a tax increment finance district in downtown Havre to help pay for improvements in the area. As property values increase in such a district for a set period, tax revenue that results from the increased value goes into an improvement fund that can be used to make loans to property owners for further improvements.
Hanson said he supports the idea as long as it is done right. He said he has seen the results of a similar district in Helena, and that it was a great asset.
Pierson said he needs to learn more about the district before being able to say for sure if Havre should adopt it. He said if it would help existing businesses in Havre or help create new ones, he would be for it.
Both candidates have campaigned by going door-to-door and distributing yard signs.
Neither of them listed contributors on their campaign finance reports. Both indicated on their report that they expected to receive and spend less than $500, so they are not required to list contributors and expenditures unless they exceed that amount.