Jeff LaVoi said his experience in business and his connections throughout the county would help him help the county through some difficult times if he is elected Hill County commissioner.
“There is going to be a drop in revenue, and it’s going to take some solid leadership to get us through,” LaVoi said. “There are opportunities from within and opportunities from without as well.”
LaVoi, running as an independent, faces Democrat James “Jim” Catt Jr. in the Nov. 2 general election.
LaVoi, who ran as a Democrat in 2004, said he was approached by the Hill County Republican Party and asked to run this year. He told them he only would run as an independent, although he said he appreciates the Republican endorsement of his candidacy.
He said he should not have listened to advice that he run as a Democrat in the last election, and should have run on his own qualifications instead.
“I consider myself just a citizen. I’m not a politician,” LaVoi said, adding that county officials don’t look at things through the slant of a party.
He said he believes the county commissioner election should be nonpartisan.
“If we took our eyes off of the party for a moment, maybe people would look at qualifications instead,” he said.
LaVoi said his 42 years of experience in business give him the skills to be a good commissioner. A key part of business is talking to people and trying to find their needs.
Being a business operator, or a county leader, means more than looking at budgets and making payroll decisions, he added.
“Employee relations come up, and benefits. Promote and get the most out of people, that plays a big part too,” he said. “I’ve thought about all the workings of running a business and those things come to mind.”
He said those skills also would help him and the county avoid many problems, such as contention between Havre and the county and numerous lawsuits now filed against the county or by the county.
His experience also would help keep projects at or under budget, LaVoi added.
“If you make sound business decisions, you won’t have those kinds of problems,” he said. “It takes homework ahead of time. You can’t shoot from the hip.”
LaVoi said he doesn’t have any agenda in mind, other than running the office as he thinks it should be run. His connections, with county residents, agriculture producers, business owners and workers and on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, would help him in running the office, he added.
Having everyone working together can solve the problems, including issues like the drop in county revenue.
“I think everybody looks for some kind of magic wand to overcome all these problems, and I don’t think such a thing exists,” he said. “But I think if we examine what we have and work together — county services, businesses, agriculture — we can find our inner strengths and build on those.”
LaVoi, who operates a small ranch in the Bear’s Paw Mountains, said the residents of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation treat him as a neighbor, and he believes he can build on that relationship if elected commissioner.
He said economic development is a key to growth in the county, but not all of that should be from outside.
“It’s something to always look for and seize opportunities,” LaVoi said. “But existing businesses and industries we have are overlooked, and we can gain from within, as well.”