Havre Daily News
If he's elected to represent Ward 1 on the Havre City Council, Gerry Veis won't have a problem expressing his opinion.
"I'm straightforward, probably too blunt for some people," he said during an interview Thursday.
Veis on Tuesday will face fellow Democrat Dave Brewer in the primary election for Dana West's seat. West is not seeking re-election. No Republican filed for the Ward 1 seat, so the winner of the primary will be unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election.
This is Veis' second primary. He lost to current Ward 1 council member Pam Hillery in 2003.
Though he filed as a Democrat, Veis does not consider himself affiliated with any political party.
"I'm strong on some issues that are conservative and on some that are liberal," he said.
He said the City Council needs to put aside differences and partisanship, and work for the betterment of Havre.
"One of the things I don't appreciate from both sides is the bickering," Veis said. "There's no reason for any of that. It's not productive. The paper has added to that.
"Quarrels should be left aside when you're trying to run a city," he added.
Veis also said city officials, council members and employees deserve credit for the hard work they put in on a day-to-day basis.
Veis said he has not attended any City Council meetings since announcing his candidacy. He stays abreast by reading the newspaper and listening to the radio, he said.
Born in Glasgow and raised in Scobey, Veis came to Havre 24 years ago to play his final two years of basketball for Northern Montana College. Two days after he graduated, he landed a job at Bear Paw Credit Union and has been there ever since. He now holds the position of executive vice president.
He said Havre is a great place to live, and that he wants to better the community by serving on the City Council.
"There's a lot of hardworking people in this community," he said. "I don't think you could find a better place to live. I'm doing this as a community service. That's the main reason I'm running."
One of the most important issues Veis sees on the horizon for Havre is the First Street reconstruction project. The Montana Department of Transportation will begin work in 2007 on the project, which involves street and sidewalk replacement, water and sewer line replacement, landscaping and beautification. It will take at least two summers to complete and will cost between $17 million and $20 million.
The project will create hassles for everyone - businesses, residents and travelers.
"We need everyone to work together," he said.
Veis said he realizes the city is under a budget crunch, but it needs to make efforts to improve its infrastructure. Raising water rates to handle major repairs or replacements for water lines is sometimes a necessary evil, he said.
"Everyone has to contribute," Veis said. "That's the way it works. What we're paying for is the generation that's coming."
The City Council is in the preliminary stages of considering adoption of a charter form of government. It now operates under the provisions of state statute, which provides general powers for city officials. A charter would allow the city to craft its own government and set roles and responsibilities for local officials.
Veis said he is confortable with the "gray area" provided by the state code.
"I don't like black and white ... that brings in separation," he said. "Nothing is 100 percent." City officials "need to be able to think on their feet and make decisions."
If Havre does put a charter before the voters, who rejected one a decade ago, Veis said, he would support nonpartisan elections to fill the council and mayor's positions. He would not support a charter that replaced the mayor with a city manager, he said.
He said he has been campaigning by talking to individual residents one-on-one. His campaign finance report states that he will not accept any donations or spend any money.
Veis serves on the Havre Day Activity Center board and the East End Rehabilitation board. In the past, Veis has served on the Havre school board and the Montana State University-Northern alumni and foundation boards.
He and his wife, Pam, have a son who is a senior at Havre High School and a daughter who is a junior at the university of Montana in Missoula.