By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Democrat Gary LaValley and Republican Terry Schend will face off in Tuesday's City Council election for the chance to represent Ward 2 for the next two years.
Neither candidate has held political office before.
Schend, who owned Tempo Electric in Havre for 25 years, said he has participated in several community organizations over the years. Now that he no longer has the responsibility of running his own business, he wants to get more involved.
"Now that I'm no longer an employer, I have more time and I feel this is an opportunity to continue that involvement," said Schend, 59.
LaValley, a farmer, said that if elected he would encourage more public involvement in city government.
"If (members of the public) have an issue that they like or dislike, the council members need to let them know that it's not hard to approach the City Council and voice their opinions. Otherwise, how are you going to know what's bugging people?" he said.
LaValley, 50, was born in Great Falls. His family moved to a farm north of Joplin when he was 10. He graduated from J-I High School in 1971. He attended college at Montana State University-Northern, MSU-Billings and the University of Montana, but did not receive a degree.
LaValley spent the next several years running his family's farm in the summer and working different jobs across four states in the winter. He continued to farm until 1999, when his farm went into the Conservation Reserve Program. He continues to maintain the farm and lives in Havre, he said.
LaValley is a member of the Sage Creek County Water District, the Montana Salinity Control Association, the Sage Creek Watershed Alliance and the Montana Coal and Mineral Owners Association. He is also a member of the Eagles Club.
He married Yvette Sterner in 1991. He is the father of two girls, ages 9 and 6. He has provided in-home care to his elderly father since 1999.
Schend is a former treasurer of the Hill County Republican Party and has worked on several campaigns.
Schend has served as a board member of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, and co-chairs the Chamber's Business Development Committee. He has also served on the Chamber committee that helped complete the Town Square project.
He is a member of the Havre Lions Club, a member of the boards of the Bears Paw District of the American Red Cross and the American Red Cross of Montana, a member of the Senior Citizens Advisory Council in Havre and a member of the board of the MSU-Northern Foundation.
Schend is also a board member of the Treasure State Independent Electrical Contractors, and a founding member of the Montana Subcontractors Association of America.
Schend was raised in Havre and graduated from Havre High School in 1963. After graduation he worked for the railroad, first in the diesel shop in Havre, and then as an electrician, a job that took him to different places in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
He left the railroad in 1976 and began Tempo Electric in Havre with two partners. The company merged with Syntech in 2001, and was later purchased by Enerflex, a Calgary, Alberta-based company. The Havre office closed in February 2003. Schend continued to finish projects for Enerflex until the end of August, and recently was hired as an electrician at Schine Electric. He also owns a few rental units in Havre.
Schend has four grown children from his first marriage. He married Vicke Larson about a year ago.
Both candidates said they are interested in continuing to investigate the creation of 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.
Schend said a tax increment finance district is long overdue.
"I think if we had a tax increment finance district ... those dollars could have been used to make those businesses more attractive," he said. "We could have been - should have been - ahead of the curve in that area."
LaValley said the city still needs to find out more.
"There has to be more research done on it," he said. "It's going to take a lot of time to research that, and that's something the City Council and the mayor have to work together on."
He said the city will have to look at the long-term benefits, as well as the cost to the city.
In addition to creating a district, Schend said he doesn't think incentives to bring more businesses to Havre are needed.
"Sitting on the Business Development Committee of the Chamber, I don't feel offering tax incentives and those kinds of things to bring businesses to Havre is necessary," he said, adding that Havre has a lot to offer companies, like good schools.
One thing the council should do to help business, he said, is to make sure the city is clean and attractive.
"People's first impression (of a town) is probably their lasting one," he said. "The mayor has done a lot to enhance that. The council people need to participate in that also."
Like Schend, LaValley pointed to Havre's benefits, including no pollution or traffic, good schools and ample recreational opportunities.
He said Havre is "yet to be discovered," and advocated a more active role for city government to get the word out to businesses both inside and out of the state.
"We need to reach out to them and make sure we let them know they're welcome," he said.
LaValley said he thinks keeping a close eye on the budget is one of the most important issues the council will face in the next term.
He said the City Council and the mayor worked hard to finish the budget and did the best they could. He said he can't pinpoint a single area that he thinks could be cut, but said if the city employees had regular preventative wellness screenings it would save money in the long run.
Schend said he thinks the city is running fairly efficiently.
"I see them doing quite a bit of public service for the amount of income that they do have," he said.
Schend said that if he is elected he would look at all of the city departments to see if they could be run more leanly.
Both candidates said that given the budget situation, the city is doing all it can for the Heritage Center.
"I believe what the city is now contributing is what it can do based on current budgets and dollars that are available," Schend said. "I think a majority of the funding for the Heritage Center needs to come from the people of Havre, not the city government."
LaValley said he commends the people at the Heritage Center for their hard work, but that the city's budget is the limiting factor in the help it can give. He said it would be easier for the City Council members if the question of whether the city should finance the building was put directly to the voters.
Both candidates said they have been campaigning door-to-door in their ward, as well as putting up lawn signs.
LaValley listed no contributions in his campaign finance reports. Candidates who indicate they expect the total amount of contributions and expenditures to be less than $500 are not required to itemize the contributions they receive unless they exceed $500.
Schend listed $200 in his campaign finance reports. That includes $100 from two friends in Havre, $50 from the Hill County Republican Central Committee, and $50 of his own money.